Phuket looks set to open 1 July
The Bangkok Times has reported that the Thai government is preparing to announce that foreign travellers could fly to Phuket without any quarantine requirement from as early as 1 July.
I previously wrote about the proposal from travel company to reopen Phuket as a trial. The rest of Thailand is expecting to reopen on 1 October, but Phuket wants to open by 1 July providing it can vaccinate 70% of its adults.
Tourists will have to show a vaccine certificate or pass, or a vaccination document certified by Iata’s Travel Pass. They will also be required to take a PCR test upon arrival and activate the ThailandPlus Covid tracing app while in Phuket. My only concern with this is that if you tested positive you face 14 days quarantine somewhere. I definitely would be taking a rapid test before departure to make sure – you can get them from around £30 for home use.
Thailand’s National News Bureau reported the prime minister held a meeting of the country’s Center for Economic Situation Administration on measures “to receive more foreign tourists” so it looks promising. Thailand is very dependant on tourism and has tried several very complex and unsuccessful schemes to restart tourism in the country. Most were so complex and subject to change at the last minute, it has had little impact on the country.
Virgin trials digital health app
Virgin Atlantic has partnered with IATA Travel Pass and TrustAssureTM to launch two separate, complementary trials to streamline journeys.
From 16 April the airline will commence a one-month trial of the IATA Travel Pass on its popular London Heathrow-Barbados services, in close collaboration with the Government of Barbados, which will accept the Pass at its border. Customers travelling for permitted reasons on flights VS131 from London Heathrow to Barbados will be invited to participate in the trial by downloading the IATA Travel Pass on their smartphone. Using the app they can create a digital ID comprising their profile photo and passport information and upload their Covid-19 credentials, selecting relevant flight information.
The IATA Travel Pass is at the forefront of digital health pass solutions being developed, allowing customers to verify that they meet the health criteria needed to travel between certain countries, with evidence of a negative Covid-19 test. Future versions of the app will also incorporate vaccine records. The free app is currently being considered by governments around the world to support the restart of international travel at scale.
Virgin Atlantic will seek approval from the UK Government to expand the trial, to accommodate customers arriving at the UK border on Barbados-Heathrow flights. I am hoping that the UK government buy into the IATA Travel Pass app rather than trying to implement one of their own which could take months and even then be a flop! Here we have something designed by an international body of airlines that has spent months working on making something that is fit for purpose. IATA Travel Pass is a globally interoperable solution that can be used as a stand-alone solution or integrated into airlines’ own apps.
From 29 March, customers travelling to Virgin Atlantic’s US destinations will also be able to verify Covid-19 test results digitally, utilising TrustAssure’s artificial intelligence (A.I.)-based solution. Each customer’s pre-departure test documentation can be securely uploaded via its mobile-optimised website, in advance of their flight, and validated using A.I., in less than two minutes. The technology has already proven extremely effective in development and trials by Virgin Atlantic’s Joint Venture partner, Delta Air Lines. Once confirmed, customers receive a QR code with a green verification, meaning they can proceed quickly through Check-In.
Corneel Koster, Chief Customer & Operating Officer, Virgin Atlantic, said:
“In parallel to the UK’s successful vaccination programme and accompanied by a risk-based, phased easing of restrictions, we can see a flightpath to soon allow the safe restart of international travel at scale, in time for summer. When the skies reopen; rapid, affordable testing combined with digital health integration will be vital to streamline and simplify the customer experience, make border health checks manageable and build consumer confidence. Governments, industry and technology companies need to work together to lead the adoption of digital solutions with global common standards that are accepted at borders.”
“Our Barbados trial with IATA Travel Pass is an exciting step towards a ‘digital health pass’ as we actively explore secure solutions to integrate testing, vaccination, health documents and locator forms into our customer journeys. Building on the success of the development by our partners Delta and TrustAssure and in line with our innovative spirit, we are also proud to join a partnership with CLX Health to deliver industry-leading A.I.-powered test verification for US-bound customers.”
The TrustAssure solution offers a simple traffic light validation system. A green response indicates the results are verified and a red result indicates there is further verification needed from Check In staff or that the test certification is not valid, for example, if the test is not to the correct specification or taken outside the three-day window. Verification technology is supported by the TrustAssure Covid-19 Testing Labs Locator, which lets customers find convenient providers and filter results by destination before they travel.
New rapid tests that take seconds approved and could be used in airports
The UK regulator, MHRA, has approved a 20-second coronavirus test that could be used in airports. The Virolens test is made by a UK company and uses saliva mouth swabs so is less invasive than some other tests.
As well as being rapid, the test has 98.1% sensitivity, which means low false negatives, and 99.7% specificity, meaning few false positives.
The test was actually trialled at Heathrow Airport and could be an incredibly useful tool to do testing on arrival or departure as a means to allow travel to happen again safely.
The Virolens system is a screening device that combines holographic imaging with a microscope and artificial intelligence (AI) to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.