On Wednesday 19 August I participated as a panelist on behalf of IBN in a webinar on international travel in a COVID-19 world. The other participants were representatives from Wings Travel, Eriscan and the Spanish, Swiss, Belgian and Italian Chambers of Commerce in South Africa.
With the Coronavirus keeping the world in its grip, global travel is virtually non-existent. And while the world waits on a vaccine or to achieve herd immunity, we must find ways to make travel safe again.
I watched a news item showing an experiment that Germany is conducting on how to organise a live concert without jeopardizing the health of its visitors. For this experiment every attendee, (a few hundred) did a Covid-19 test prior to the concert.
It involved a ‘quick test’ but the amount of time and work and the financial burden on the organisers, to ensure every attendee was safe was huge. I would imagine it would not be possible to repeat this process on a larger audience in the future but it might work with the right automation.
A handful of countries apply similar protocols for international travel. Rwanda recently included testing on arrival and departure for all travelers and the test results were available in an hour.
Consequently the European Union added Rwanda to its list, as the only African country, in Sub-Saharan Africa that is safe to travel to. It is ironic that travel volumes through Kigali airport, the only international airport in this tiny country, are relatively small.
While Rwanda was innovative, one can question whether this behaviour can successfully be copied in the rest of Africa.
Eriscan, a South African healthcare company that is hugely innovative also participated in the webinar. They are currently developing a Covid-19 “quick test” for travelers that is fully automated and can be conducted at home. The results are uploaded to the Cloud on your Smartphone and your status is shown via an App on the phone. The colour Green means that no Covid-19 has been detected, Red you are infected and Yellow could indicate a fault.
If such technology becomes widely used, we could be traveling safely sooner than imagined. The testing of passengers using smart machines and Apps, prior to boarding a plane, will be part of the routine travel protocol. Since the entire process is remote and automated, no additional load will be placed on the airline or airport personnel.
Data protection and who has access to these medical records will be a huge concern.
Accepting that such innovation may be the only course of action possible to return to safe travel.
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By Hans Kroll