The Commons Project Foundation and the World Economic Forum announced international trials starting this week for CommonPass, a digital health pass for travellers to securely document their certified COVID-19 test status while keeping their health data private.
CommonPass is built on the CommonPass Framework that establishes standard methods for lab results and vaccination records to be certified and enables governments to set and verify their own health criteria for travellers.
The purpose of CommonPass and the CommonPass Framework is to enable safer airline and cross border travel by giving both travellers and governments confidence in each traveller’s verified COVID-19 status.
Why does it matter?
At present, COVID-19 test results for travel are frequently shared on printed paper (or photos of the paper) from unknown labs, often written in languages foreign to those inspecting them. There is no standard format or certification system.
Cathay Pacific Airways and United Airlines will trial the system in October with select volunteers on flights between London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, with government authorities observing. Deployments are planned with additional airlines and routes across Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East in quick succession.
How does it work?
To use CommonPass, travellers take a COVID-19 test at a certified lab and upload the results to their mobile phone. They then complete any additional health screening questionnaires required by the destination country.
With test results and questionnaire complete, CommonPass confirms a traveller’s compliance with the destination country entry requirements and generates a QR code. That code can be scanned by airline staff and border officials. A QR code can be printed for users without mobile devices.
For Cathay Pacific Airways, the first internal trial is planned for a flight between Hong Kong International Airport and Singapore Changi International Airport, using rapid testing technology provided by Prenetics.
For United Airlines, the first airline to trial the platform in the United States, volunteers will use the service for flights between London Heathrow Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.
Volunteers undertaking the trials with the two airlines will adhere to all entry and testing rules and will upload information from their lab tests into CommonPass before departure.
At London Heathrow, tests from private testing company Prenetics will be administered by the travel and medical services firm Collinson in the dedicated COVID-19 testing facilities set up with their partner Swissport.
CommonPass adheres to tight privacy principles and is designed to protect personal data in compliance with relevant privacy regulations, including GDPR.
For governments, CommonPass and the CommonPass Framework provide a more reliable means of assessing the health status of incoming travellers and gives them the flexibility to adapt their entry requirements as the pandemic evolves, including whether and what type of lab tests or vaccinations to require.
On the record
“Travel and tourism has been down across the board due to the COVID pandemic,” said Diane Sabatino, Deputy Executive Director, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). “CBP wants to be part of the solution to build confidence in air travel, and we are glad to help the aviation industry and our federal partners stand up a pilot like CommonPass.”
“Without the ability to trust COVID-19 tests — and eventually vaccine records — across international borders, many countries will feel compelled to retain full travel bans and mandatory quarantines for as long as the pandemic persists,” said Dr. Bradley Perkins, Chief Medical Officer of The Commons Project and former Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “With trusted individual health data, countries can implement more nuanced health screening requirements for entry.”
“Partners across the globe are looking for sustainable solutions to keep travel healthy, responsible and safe,” said Dr. Martin S. Cetron, Director, Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, CDC. “CDC is eager to learn from the CommonPass pilot, as it could be one of the many potential tools that may one day contribute to a safe, responsible and healthy global air travel experience.”
CommonPass and the CommonPass Framework are being launched by the World Economic Forum and The Commons Project, a Swiss-based non-profit foundation building global digital services and platforms for the common good, in collaboration with a broad coalition of public and private partners around the world, including government representatives from 37 countries across six continents.
The goal of the trials is to replicate the full traveller experience of taking a test for COVID-19 prior to departure, uploading the result to their phones, and demonstrating their compliance with entry requirements at their departure and destination airports.
Following these trials, the CommonPass rollout will expand to additional airlines and routes across Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East in quick succession.