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Most people thought and hoped that the COVID-19 pandemic will end as quickly as it started. But like the pandemic of the 1900s, the effect of the ongoing global health emergency has been far-reaching. The presence of the virus drastically altered how we live, interact, and travel — almost all countries barred people from crossing their borders to stop the spread. Now that travel restrictions have been lifted in some areas, traveling to another country (or even domestic travel) is again possible but more tedious and time-consuming. 

Even though international travel in the Asia Pacific region has seen a 17% growth in the past month, and domestic trips spiked to 170% between February and March 2021, International SOS, the world’s leading health, travel, and security solutions provider, has found that many people, even seasoned business travelers, remain apprehensive to leave their shores.

“Traveling has become and will remain for the time being more complicated than before the pandemic. Travel requirements and protocols will be subject to change and will lack consistency from one region to the next, or vary depending on the mode of travel and carrier you are traveling with,” according to Andrew Candelet, Country Manager of International SOS Philippines.

Large and medium-scale organizations are likewise troubled by various travel concerns. In an independent study conducted by International SOS on “Travel Data Trends” from 01 September 2019 to 31 March 2021, it was revealed that 81% of organizations are afraid to get stranded in their destination country if the COVID-19 situation worsens; 57% are concerned about health and safety guidelines; 52% worry about the safety and hygiene of accommodations and transportation, and 45% are concerned if they can provide emergency support to assignees and travelers.

Business travelers have also become more purposeful in terms of their trips. About 32% of them go on trips to pursue business development opportunities while 27% cross borders to fulfill project deliverables. 

The International SOS Group of Companies is in the business of saving lives, protecting your global workforce from health and security threats. They deliver customized health, security risk management, and wellbeing solutions to fuel your growth and productivity. In the event of extreme weather, an epidemic, or a security incident, they provide an immediate response for peace of mind with their innovative technology and medical expertise focus on prevention, offering real-time actionable insights and on-the-ground quality insights. They help you meet client reporting needs for good governance.

Candelet further explained that these variations in protocols are expected to be ongoing and occur without much notice as countries scramble to respond to the prevalence of the virus on the ground.

“Travel bubbles and corridors will come and go, depending on how each area is doing. For now, four countries require a vaccination certificate to exempt travelers from quarantine, six countries require a vaccination certificate to exempt people from testing, 25 countries need a combination of tests before and/or after arrival, and 63 countries demand quarantine,” added Candelet.  

On top of these, travelers must comply with about 13 other health and travel guidelines before departure and upon arrival at their destination. These include pre-travel documentation and vaccination, isolation, monitoring, and securing medical clearance. 

The complexity of going from one destination to the next and the demand to ensure one’s safety has led to the development of the AOKPass — a secure, private and portable digital compliance status pass. Launched last March 2020 in partnership with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), SGS Group, and International SOS, the AOKpass health passport enables individuals to collate and store their health and travel declarations digitally on their phones. Compared to paper-based certifications like RT-PCR test results, travel documents, and vaccination records, the AOKpass mobile app is secure, convenient, and not easily tampered with. It also lessens the handling of physical documents which could increase the risk of exposure. 

Darren Toh, CEO of AOKpass said, “Digital certifications like the AOKpass eliminate the inefficiencies and gaps rendered by paper-based certifications such as high cost, inconvenience, vulnerability to fraud, human error, and loss. With the AOKpass, users are assured that their data is secure and private, accessible through both digital and hard copies, and interoperable which can be used for return to travel, work, and play requirements.”

This next-generation vaccination passport uses blockchain and cryptographic protection and is GDPR compliant to safeguard users’ privacy. It is also easy to navigate and intuitive for seamless and hassle-free contactless verifications. The app’s capability is further enhanced by the ICC’s vast network of organizations and International SOS’s global network of clinics and health providers.  

Although the pandemic is far from over, it is becoming more apparent that health certifications and vaccination passports, could be a necessity for more locales, cities, countries, and even businesses to open their doors soon. 

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