When You Finally Get to Travel You May Need a New Pasport

By Kennedy Ruffin

When was the last time you boarded a plane? No doubt, a lot has changed since then. Might you have to obtain a new type of passport before you board your next flight?

An immunity passport is one of many new terms having emerged this year. It is understood to be a certificate indicating a non-risk or very low risk of spreading the coronavirus, thus, allowing holders the freedom to travel and even work in some cases.

Immunity passports are being developed to be used in close connection with technology. Users of certain apps can track who has and has not been exposed to the virus. For example, Tracetogether is such an app used in Singapore. Users indicate their health status and enable location for bluetooth tracking. This allows the user to maintain social distancing and healthcare officials to monitor people's movement in public areas. Aarogya Setu is a similar app used in India, made mandatory for all using public transportation. Many countries are in the early stages of implementing a system that registers a person’s identity and health status with biometric details and face recognition for approved entry into airports, workplaces, and other public places.

It’s true, why didn’t someone think of this before? Just the level up a year like 2020 should have!  Will such developments establish our new normal? Or will this get filed away with the rest of the “pandemic” proposals? Let’s consider the scientific and social obstacles to immunity passports.

First, it is not yet understood how long after antibodies enter the body, by infection or vaccine, one remains immune. Also testing for the presence of the virus is still being established for accuracy and reliability. The World Health Organization feels that issuing such certificates could lower people's guard to safety precautions and thus worsen the spread of the virus.

Second, immunity passports would affect industries where workers interact with the public. Such workers are demographically a part of a lower income background. If immunity passports were enforced, priority for such jobs may be given only to those who have tested negatively. Thus, presenting an additional financial pressure on this demographic if they test positively. Also, the haul of personal biographic and health related data may lead some to feel an intrusion upon privacy rights.

Alas, we will have to wait to see how the advancement in knowledge about the virus and immunity passports progresses in the next year to know how our lives will be affected.