The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to the travel industry and big players such as the airlines with everything to lose are desperate for a solution by whatever means necessary.
The World Travel and Tourism Council, the trade group representing major global travel companies, has predicted a global loss of 75 million jobs and $2.1 trillion in revenue, National Geographic reported. But the CEO of Delta Air Lines says there may be a solution to encourage people to travel again.
In a recent call with investors, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said he and his employees are examining possible new restrictions for travelers, which could include requiring passengers to present documentation of good health at airports. In other words, an immunity passport, The Points Guy (TPG) blog reported.
Not everyone is on board. Some experts think the concept of immunity passports is a bad idea that could help spread the virus.
“We will make whatever changes to the business model that will be necessary,” Bastian said, suggesting that “immunity passports” could be a requirement for travelers. “Could there be a new public health agency coming out that requires a new passport to travel? I don’t know but we’ll be on the forefront of all those advances.”
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Bastian and other industry experts have been considering such documentation.
“People will have to carry, essentially, a COVID passport,” said Robert W. Mann, a New York City-based aviation analyst, told TPG. Even after a vaccine is discovered, Mann said people will still likely have to carry documentation to show they are immune before traveling.
Several destinations have already started the process of issuing immunity passports. Chile will begin to issue immunity passports to its citizens who have recovered from COVID-19, according to a Washington Post report.
The World Health Organization (WHO) urging governments to not issue so-called “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” as a way of easing lockdowns.
According to WHO, there is no evidence that people who developed antibodies after recovering from the virus could not get re-infected, CNN reported.
Issuing such documentation could actually increase virus transmission because people who believed they were immune might stop taking precautions, WHO warned.
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“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the WHO said in a briefing note. “At this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate’.”
Belgium, which has one of the highest death rates per capita, is planning to slowly relax coronavirus lockdown restrictions starting in May, but a government adviser opposes the idea of immunity passports.
“I abhor the fact that we would give people passports, a green one or a red one, depending on their serology status,” said virologist Professor Marc Van Ranst, a member of the Belgian government’s Risk Assessment Group and Scientific Committee on the Coronavirus, according to BBC.
“That will lead to forgeries, that will lead to people willfully infecting themselves to the virus. This is just not a good idea. It is an extremely bad idea.”