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United Airlines trials global health app on Heathrow flight

United Airlines Boeing 777-200ER Star Alliance, © Ingo Lang

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CHICAGO - United Airlines is set to test a digital health pass under a global pilot program seeking to establish a common international standard for Covid-19 test results and eventually vaccine records that could help reopen borders.

The nonprofit initiative, called CommonPass, is backed by the World Economic Forum and Swiss-based foundation The Commons Project. If successful, it could persuade governments to ease the restrictions and quarantines that have slammed air travel since the coronavirus starting spreading across the globe.

The United flight from London Heathrow to Newark Liberty International in New Jersey follows a pilot by Cathay Pacific this month, and other large airlines are also planning international trials in November and December.

"The goal of these trials is to demonstrate to governments that they can rely on someone getting tested in one country and present their credentials in another country," Paul Meyer, chief executive of The Commons Project, told Reuters. Broad deployment is targeted for January, he said.

Volunteers on the United flight, which will be observed by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will upload Covid-19 test results from a certified lab to their smartphones and complete any required health screening questions to generate a verified QR (quick response) code that airline staff and border officials can scan.

They will present the code, which can be printed for passengers without mobile devices, before departing and on arrival.

The project aims to build a network of trusted labs and would rely on those results and vaccination records to be certified across borders, replacing the current method of sharing paper-based and easily falsified test results from unknown labs.

The labs would verify a person's identity for the app, which is designed to protect personal data and privacy, said Meyer, who is in a dialogue with airlines and countries across the globe for the project. "The model only works if countries agree to trust health data from other countries," he said.
© Reuters, | 21.10.2020 07:40

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