In 2016, six months after the discovery of the worst drug-resistant superbug known to man, an international emergency was declared. For the first time in history, any traveler from one nation to another could result in infectious disease. And it was this that stalled the world’s travel industry. The problem was that while the name of the bug was unknown, it was known that it was resistant to all known antibiotics.
I love travel. Whether I am visiting a new city or returning to an old one, I like to explore, meet new people, and enjoy the sights. Unfortunately, this year saw the introduction of a new vaccine for travelers, and I am a victim of its incompatibility in the global travel industry.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) warns that the effective resumption of international travel following the introduction of the COVID vaccine is threatened by the lack of mutual recognition of the various COVID 19 vaccines approved worldwide.
The WTTC, whose members represent the global private travel and tourism industry, is warning in response to reports that travellers are being turned away at borders because countries around the world do not share and accept the COVID-19 common list of internationally recognised vaccines.
According to the World Tourism Organization, an increasing number of vaccinated travelers have been denied entry to foreign countries in recent weeks because the batch or brand of vaccine they received is not recognized in the destination country. Some were not allowed to board flights to foreign countries at all.
The WTTC stated that the lack of international coordination to agree on a globally recognized list of the various COVID-19 licensed vaccines is a serious impediment to a measurable resumption of international travel.
Although the chemical composition or manufacturer may differ, most of these types of vaccines are approved by health authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the stringent regulatory agencies (SRA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the US Food and Drug Administration or the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
More and more travellers are being turned away at the border because their vaccination documents show an unrecognised type of vaccine or even the wrong batch of vaccine. A few days ago, several British tourists who had been vaccinated with a batch of Covishield vaccine produced in India by Oxford/AstraZeneca were refused entry to Malta, despite the fact that the vaccine is chemically identical to the British version and has already been approved by the European Union.
According to the WTTC, this discourages consumers from booking trips abroad, further damaging the already struggling travel and tourism industry. The organisation is calling for the mutual recognition of all vaccines and batches of vaccines between countries around the world and has issued four new guidelines to enable international mobility to resume safely. In this way, the world can both stimulate the global economic recovery and save the millions of jobs and livelihoods that depend on the sector.
Virginia Messina, Senior Vice President of WTTC, said: Mutual recognition of all types and lots of vaccines is essential if we are to avoid further unnecessary and damaging delays in international travel.
The inability of countries to agree on a common list of all approved and licensed vaccines is of great concern to the WTTC as we know that daily travel is declining and more and more cash-rapped companies are being pushed to the brink of bankruptcy.
We can prevent this by having a fully recognised list of all authorised vaccines – and batches of vaccines – which should be the key to allowing international travel, not the door to preventing it.
It will also give holidaymakers and travellers the confidence they need to book trips, flights and cruises, as they can be sure that their full immunisation status will be recognised internationally.
The new recommendations of the STTC for a safe recovery of international mobility while preserving public health are as follows
-Reduced protocols for vaccinated travelers, including no testing or quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers. Global recognition for international travel of all vaccines approved for use by WHO or WHO-approved stringent regulatory authorities (SRAs) and found to be safe and effective.
A data-driven, risk-based and internationally coordinated approach to restoring freedom of movement that is consistent across countries and easy for travellers to communicate and understand.
-World-wide introduction of digital health passports that allow travellers to easily obtain and confirm their vaccination status, a negative result of the COVID test or natural immunity due to a previous infection. They should cooperate with the existing border control systems and tour operators set up in all countries. Digital verification of a traveller’s COVID status prior to travel prevents long and dangerous queues at transport centres and terminals.
-to consistently apply high health and safety standards in all areas of travel and tourism, including the further adoption of the WTTC protocols and the WTTC Safe Travel Seal, requiring face masks to be worn at all times in enclosed and crowded areas and on all public transport.
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