Will an effective coronavirus vaccine boost international travel?

Anir Chatterji, Middle East immigration leader at PwC, talks to Arabian Business about whether vaccines will put an end to quarantining and testing

News of effective vaccines against coronavirus being rolled out has raised hopes that international travel will soon go back to normal, or at least the “new normal”.

This comes in as 25 countries have already signed up to the CommonPass, or the ‘digital health passport’, an initiative aimed at creating an aligned and common international standard for flight passengers to demonstrate they do not have coronavirus.

Until the vaccine is in wider circulation, coronavirus testing and quarantine measures remain critical components in facilitating international travel.

Anir Chatterji, Middle East immigration leader at PwC, talks to Arabian Business about how the provision of effective vaccines will impact international travel and whether it will put an end to quarantining and testing.

Chatterji also addresses the mechanisms of the CommonPass and what it means for global travellers.

AB: Does the vaccine mean travel will resume in 2021?

AC: Hopefully, although it’s likely to be a few months yet before the vaccine is in circulation.

It is, however, anticipated that international travel will start to resume to a greater extent by spring 2021, as travel restrictions ease in direct response to vaccination access.

Confidence in international travel will also be central to the extent of international travel we can expect to see next year.

AB: Will the vaccine have an impact on quarantine requirements?

AC: Potentially. However, it will depend on individual countries’ approach to their borders and community transmission measures.

Access to the vaccines is likely to be skewed in favour of high-income countries, such as the US, UK and European countries. Lower-income countries may therefore still be heavily reliant upon quarantine measures throughout 2021 (and we should anticipate Covid-19 testing to remain central to travel requirements next year).

Anir Chatterji, Middle East immigration leader at PwC

AB: Will travellers be required to obtain a vaccination certificate before boarding an airline?

AC: Qantas Airlines made headlines when it announced that international travellers would likely be required to prove they’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19, before being able to board one of their aircrafts.

However, airline industry group, International Air Transport Association has distanced itself from Qantas’ stance, saying it’s still too early to confirm approach and that testing would continue to be critical in order to facilitate travel.

Ryanair and easyJet announced that they did not expect to require vaccination on their flights. Ryanair had suggested, however, that duration of the flight may be a consideration for future vaccine certification requirements, with short-haul flights unlikely to implement such strict requirements.

AB: Which countries are likely to have access to vaccines?

AC: If travel restrictions do look to incorporate the requirement to present vaccination certificates, then access to these vaccines will play a significant role in the ability to mobilise and cross borders.

‘Vaccine nationalism’ is a common phrase used in the discussion on country access to vaccines. With the vast majority of vaccine doses already being bought by high-income countries, there is a concern that in the race to get reserves, the poorest of countries will be left behind.

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