We need the option of vaccine certificates, says ABTA chief executive, Mark Tanzer. Read his comments in full below.
Across media yesterday, we were vocal in responding to the comments made by the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, on booking holidays. We were clear that the travel industry can’t wait for the full rollout of the vaccine programme before people start to travel again. Another summer season lost to the pandemic would be disastrous for the sector. The government needs to work with the travel industry to develop a route forward to opening up travel.
There are two sides to this – firstly following the medicine, understanding whether vaccines are effective against new variants and whether if you have been vaccinated you are capable of transmitting the disease. It is this information that destinations wishing to accept UK travellers will be particularly keen to understand.
Secondly, there is how you facilitate travel once people have been vaccinated. Having the option to obtain some sort of vaccine certificate will be important because this evidence, alongside testing, is likely to be part of the way to re-open travel. We would like to see the government work with the industry on how can we have a voluntary certificate that will be able to demonstrate that you’ve been vaccinated, meaning you don’t have to test or quarantine. That would be a real incentive to get people travelling again. We already know that some overseas governments such as Greece and Cyprus are looking at proof of vaccination as a way for travellers to avoid testing and quarantine requirements.
We should also remember that having a vaccine certificate isn’t a new idea. There are examples that already exist for viral diseases, such as yellow fever, where there is an internationally recognised standard of certification that you have been vaccinated.
I understand concerns around discrimination and data privacy, which is why any vaccine certificate should be optional. The government has asked people to participate in the vaccination scheme and in the test and trace programme; people who have done so have the right to their personal data.
While I strongly believe that being vaccinated, and having evidence of it that is recognised internationally, must be part of the solution to reopening travel – it cannot be the only route. There need to be other ways, such as a practical and cost-effective testing regime, to allow those who are yet to be vaccinated to travel.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive, ABTA