Covid-status certification could enable freer travel

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During a Chamber of Commerce webinar, public health officials explained that rather than a ‘vaccine passport’, focusing solely on whether someone had had a jab, plans were being looked at for a certificate which would also confirm whether a person had developed immunity to the virus having already contracted it and recovered, or if they had had a recent negative test.

The discussion came as the Island looks to reopen to visitors from the UK, Guernsey and Isle of Man on 26 April under a traffic-light system. The red, green and amber protocol, which was in place last summer, sets out the isolation and testing requirements for incoming passengers depending on where they have stayed overnight in the previous two weeks and the number of cases within those regions.

Public health senior policy officer James Lynch said that while it was ‘too early’ to say what the border policy might be, a proof of vaccination under such a system could see an individual ‘downgraded’ in terms of these requirements.

‘Some of the potential options in play are that there could be a step down in RAG [red, amber, green], whereby if somebody was travelling with red travel history and they were fully vaccinated, they could receive an amber classification,’ he said.

‘And similarly they could go from an amber to a green classification.’

Under the previous terms of the traffic-light system, those coming from green zones – where there are fewer than 50 actives cases per 100,000 – only had to isolate until receiving a negative test result on arrival. Amber arrivals – from regions were there are between 50 and 120 cases per 100,000 – were required to isolate for a minimum period of five days, while those coming from red zones had to isolate for ten days and receive three negative test results.

Mr Lynch added that a trial period could take place, something for which he said Jersey would be well equipped.

‘Unlike many jurisdictions we do have an extremely robust and well-established testing regime at the border,’ he said.

‘Other jurisdictions don’t have that strength to build from and so my own sense is that certainly in terms of a pilot, or a trial of other arrangements, we have some strengths.

‘Geography helps as well. We only have two main ports of entry and therefore our ability to validate and screen entry helps us a great deal.’

Mr Lynch added that the level of vaccination in a region or country might also affect its RAG rating.

He said that around 70% of incoming passengers would be returning Islanders, and screening them should not be difficult.

He added that the issue of requiring vaccine certification domestically, for example to go to a pub, would be ‘very ethically challenging’. Reasons outlined in the presentation for this were that such a move could create a ‘two-tier society’, as vaccinations are not mandatory and some people are unwilling or unable to be vaccinated.

His fellow senior policy officer, Dr Clare Newman, said that work to secure exchange-of-Covid-19-status-certification data with the Common Travel Area countries of the UK, Ireland and the Crown Dependencies would be a priority over elsewhere.

‘We’re moving towards Covid-status certification and I think you’ll see that being pushed in the UK as well,’ she said.

Dr Newman added: ‘For visitors it’s going to depend hugely on their country of origin. We are actively talking to everyone within the Common Travel Area to understand what they’re developing and to come to the understanding that if they are producing something that we will be able to accept [for certification] and vice versa.

‘It’s likely we’re going to have some sort of Common Travel Area agreement before there’s a more international solution.’

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