WTTC urges global agreement on digital health certificate

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has called on governments around the world to join the World Health Organisation’s Global Digital Health Certification Network to ensure no repeat of Covid-19 travel restrictions in the event of another pandemic.

WTTC president and chief executive Julia Simpson urged representatives at the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva “to come together to guarantee testing, digital vaccination certificates and a fair distribution of medical resources to keep us moving during the next disaster”.

She said joining the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) Global Digital Health Certification Network (GDHCN) can “ensure health checks are universally aligned [and] allow seamless verification across borders”.

MoreComment: We can’t be caught out by a Covid-like virus again

In an opinion piece for this morning’s Travel Weekly, Simpson notes the Covid-19 pandemic led to “deserted tourist sites, empty airports and shuttered businesses” and argues: “This is our opportunity to create a unified plan – a pandemic treaty – to prioritise global health and ensure we are never again unprepared for a crisis.

“We need strong public health infrastructure, well-funded scientific research, and a commitment to technology in developing nations.”

The GDHCN is an open, interoperable digital infrastructure to facilitate the verification and secure exchange of verifiable Digital Health Certificates.

The system is voluntary and the WHO does not have access to the underlying personal data.

Currently, the network is used only for Covid-19 vaccine and test certificates, but participants in the system can propose future uses.

Explaining the development of the network, the WHO said: “Digital Covid-19 test and vaccine certificates were key tools in reopening economies during the pandemic.

“There is recognition of an existing gap and continued need for a global mechanism that can support bilateral verification of . . . health documents for pandemic preparedness and continuity of care.

“The GDHCN can be used as an infrastructural building block, which may include the digitisation of the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, verification of prescriptions across borders, the International Patient Summary, verification of vaccination certificates within and across borders, and certification of public health professionals.”

It noted: “The GDHCN builds upon the experience of regional networks for Covid-19 Certificates and takes up the infrastructure and experiences with the EU Digital Covid Certificate (EU DCC) system, [adopted] across member states of the EU as well as 51 non-EU countries and territories.

The EU recommended member states join the network in June last year.

The system is “designed to be interoperable with other existing regional networks’ specifications” according to the WHO.

The Global Health Assembly is due to close on June 1, with WHO member states agreeing earlier this week to try to conclude a ‘Pandemic Agreement’.

MoreComment: We can’t be caught out by a Covid-like virus again

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