The restart of international travel could be seriously delayed without worldwide reciprocal recognition of all approved Covid-19 vaccines, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) warned on Thursday.
The global tourism body, which represents the global private Travel & Tourism sector, has issued its warning following concerns tourists face being turned away at the borders because countries do not have a common list of internationally recognised and approved Covid-19 vaccines.
According to the WTTC, over the past few weeks reports of holidaymakers facing obstacles to entry have been on the rise, with some even being prevented from boarding their flights to destinations.
WTTC believes that once again, the lack of international coordination to agree on a list of approved vaccines, is creating yet another major stumbling block for the restart of international travel.
Reports of travellers being turned away because they have the ‘wrong’ vaccine batches or ‘unrecognised’ vaccines have fueled concern from consumers, deterring them from booking and thereby damaging the already struggling Travel & Tourism sector.
This comes despite most vaccines have secured the approval of the World Health Organisation (WHO) or Stringent Regulatory Authorities (SRAs), such as the UK’s the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Food and Drug Administration in the US, and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
The plea for reciprocal recognition for all vaccines and vaccine batches forms part of WTTC’s four new guidelines which are aimed at safely resuming international mobility and save the millions of jobs and livelihoods which depend on this sector, while kick-starting the global economic recovery.
The guidelines include:
1. Appropriately reduced protocols for vaccinated travellers, including no need for testing or quarantine for those fully vaccinated. Global recognition for international travel of all vaccines authorised for use and deemed safe and effective by the WHO or by the WHO recognised SRAs.
2. A data driven, risk-based and internationally harmonised approach to re-establishing freedom of movement, that is consistent across countries, easy to communicate and clearly understood by travellers.
3. Global adoption of ‘digital health passes’ which enable travellers to easily obtain and verify their vaccination status, negative COVID test result or natural immunity from a previous infection. These must work with existing border control and travel operator systems accepted by all countries. Digital verification of a traveller’s COVID status prior to travel will avoid lengthy and unsafe queues in transport hubs and terminals.
4. Continued implementation of high-quality health and safety standards throughout all areas of the Travel & Tourism sector, including continued adoption of the WTTC’s Safe Travel Protocols and Safe Travel Stamp, with the continued wearing of face masks in crowded and enclosed areas as well as on all forms of public transport.
The WTTC will advocate the full implementation of the guidelines for travel during over the next few months, as many travel restrictions begin being eased as major travel markets begin to reopen.