The need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 is paramount. Possibly mandatory for employment in certain situations, useful for entry into many venues domestically and significant in determining international travel eligibility. Along with which isolation and testing regimes are required for the destination country, transit countries and country of origin if a return trip is planned. Clearly, vaccination passports for international travel are now a reality.
Currently, pre-departure Covid-19 testing is mandatory for most long-distance travellers prior to their departure for New Zealand with exceptions limited to infants, those with medical conditions and a number of neighbouring countries.
Our Christchurch Immigration member, Mary Noonan of Heartland Immigration shares about the reality of the possible requirement of vaccination passports for international travel.
The question remains unanswered as to the next step as to whether Covid-19 vaccination will be made mandatory for entry to New Zealand. Many New Zealanders are quick to reference Section 18 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights 1990 which gives citizens the right to enter New Zealand. Individual rights are not always absolute particularly during a worldwide health crisis when preserving life and livelihoods takes priority.
Nevertheless, it is unlikely that New Zealanders and their nearest and dearest will be banned because they are not vaccinated or unable to be vaccinated. They however may need to undergo additional testing, longer MQ and generally less flexible options than those who are vaccinated.
Those who need a visa are however a different category in that immigration legislation. Regulations and instructions all explicitly require that approvals are not forthcoming if the applicant is likely to pose a health risk. Making vaccination mandatory is reasonable and pragmatic although provision for those unable to be vaccinated for genuine medical reasons is a necessity.
Vaccination passports are coming and are likely to be an application on the travellers’ smartphone, or for those without smartphones, will need to print a hard copy before beginning their journey. Think of the boarding pass Air New Zealand currently uses.
Many countries, including New Zealand, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, are working on a Covid-19 vaccine passport to allow their nationals to travel around the world, however, a global standard is yet to be developed or perhaps more accurately, agreed upon.
The UK has the NHS COVID Pass, in digital format or hard copy version, administered by that Government’s public health service. On the continent, all 27 members of the EU along with Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein have the EU Covid Certificate again in digital or hard copy. Japan already has a vaccination certificate recognised by Italy, Austria, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Poland. Australia will have these available in October.
The airline industry has been proactive with Air New Zealand trialling, when trans-Tasman travel was available, an application developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). While that particular bubble has well and truly been burst, valuable insight was gained. More recently IATA also began a two-week trial of its Digital Travel Pass on flights between Singapore and London and Qantas has already declared they plan to exclude travellers who aren’t vaccinated.
The world will reopen to international travel and we can all prepare for this by promoting Covid-19 vaccinations.