Singapore opens up international travel with digital apps

By TIN Media | Singapore News Published 2 weeks ago on 16 April 2021
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Covid-19 vaccines have proved incredibly effective not only to stop but to spread the infection, and many countries including Singapore want to bring travel back to their destination and important things such as commercial and economic opportunities for local residents.

Unfortunately, the biggest risk for opening measures in the short term is the false test results and vaccination certificates. As the country that relies heavier on companies, transport and visitors, Singapore is committed to overcoming this hurdle and is looking forward to a trial on the IATA travel pass.

Vaccination and covid-19 testing fraud reports are more than exaggerated. They are a legitimate source of concern, with many real-world data points of people being apprehended and a concerning number of people not being apprehended. It makes it difficult for countries to open up.

As it stands, travel test results are rudimentary PDFs with few failsafes. You get a result, you download it, and it says "this person tested negative for covid-19 using this test on this date," and in the best case, there's a digital stamp that looks official and includes contact information. It is all too easy for people to make their own without first testing them.

Apps like CommonPass, VeriFLY and IATA's Travel Pass hope that results will be uploaded from verified laboratories directly to the app and that any reported findings will have a handle-safe seal created. The app offers airlines and immigration officials a checkable QR-code showing that once you are "fit to fly" and only once all the requirements have been met, you can't just share a PDF and say that it is real.

In the hope of squaring the results verified by the application with their own test data to obtain a ballpark figure on risks known for travellers with genuine vaccination certificates or negative test results, Singapore will begin a trial of the IATA Travel Pass.

These passes provide more confidence in the results, which allow countries such as Singapore to feel more tranquil that a traveller claims to have a genuine health. It will be easier to resume travel just over a year ago if it is believed that the state of vaccine was not only real, but rather "known" to be real.

Singapore Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung has also noted in parliament that the nation is working to address agreements for mutual recognition on vaccination certificates with other countries.

For the time being, Singapore will depend on its recently built, massive business transit centre, which enables people to fly in and conduct critical business while remaining safe behind glass. For contactless food delivery, also rooms have been equipped with safety features. It's a long way from really tasting the delights of Singapore's street food stalls, but it's something.

The fact that Singapore will test the IATA Travel Pass to check results and monitor the effect of inbound tourists is encouraging, but it is far from a guarantee that the airport will reopen soon. In the short term, Singapore hopes to develop testing regimes with regional partners such as Australia and Hong Kong to replace quarantine.


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