• Shirina Mulani

Digital Passports: The Key To Overseas Travel Amidst The Pandemic

Updated: Jul 23

We have come a long way since first facing the COVID-19 pandemic. As you might imagine, efficiency was key in keeping the virus at bay. Especially when it came to healthcare records, the last thing anyone needed was to misplace your paper records while battling the deadly virus. Now, with vaccination programmes being rolled out in many places around the world, some Asia-Pacific countries have begun running trials on digital health passports - Singapore included.

While our frontline staff battled the pandemic head-on, teams from SGInnovate and Accredify were busy developing our digital health passport called Travel Pass, to allow clinics and hospitals to share healthcare data across borders in a secure manner, using technology like blockchain.

1. How does it work?

The Travel Pass mobile app was created to provide an easily accessible, portable file of medical documents for citizens. By having everything stored digitally on the app, users can access their records anytime via SingPass. Due to the nature of blockchain, these records are also tamperproof, hence an excellent source for governments to make sure they are effectively mitigating the risk of importing COVID-19.

In order to open up aviation, travellers must take a COVID-19 test before their flight. With the application, healthcare providers will be able to issue a QR code with the test result, which travellers may present to immigration authorities. The QR code will store all the relevant information that officers need to verify whether the test is valid, such as whether the laboratory is on the destination country’s whitelist, what type of test was taken, and whether it was done within the required time frame.

2. Will we see travel soon?

The initiative was given approval in May, and Singapore has already started trialing the software from places like Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. Once given approval, Singapore can extend it to other cities in its route network. Similarly, Air New Zealand has announced it will trial a digital travel pass to give airlines and border authorities access to passenger health information, including their COVID-19 vaccination status.

Ultimately, if governments can be assured that aviation is safe, we may be able to get some sense of normality back in terms of leisure travel. It's a game of confidence - the more confidence they have, the more willing they will be to open up borders. With more and more countries jumping on the digital passport, there’s a chance we finally have the chance to go on that long overdue holiday soon!

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