Vaccine Passport is now an App!

Update on travel around the world and update on National Seniors Travel.

It’s been close to a month since my last update. Things are really beginning to move and with important updates I want to ensure our clients are up to speed. It is vital that we all are preparing for the new travel world.

As such, I thought it may help to quickly update you on the state of play for travel, both here and around the world. So let me go through the most recent happenings:  

Scott Morrison confirms border restrictions will finally lift in Nov.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that overseas travel will be able to resume for fully vaccinated travellers from next month in states where the 80% threshold has been reached. The PM said he would "stick with the plan" to open borders once vaccination had reached safe levels in line with earlier National Cabinet Meeting discussions. Morrison also confirmed that fully vaccinated permanent residents arriving in NSW will be able to home quarantine for a week instead of paying for costly hotel quarantine for a fortnight. Meanwhile the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has recommended that Sinovac and Covishield also be recognised for inbound travellers to Australia.

Vaccine Passport is now an App! 

A QR code scanner for international vaccine passports is now available on Apple’s App Store, providing the latest insight into how international travel after October works.

It is called the VDS-NC checker…what does this acronym mean? Visible Digital Seal for Unconstrained Environments. And in essence this will be our Vaccine Passport. Designed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), it has already risen to 9th place in the ranking of most downloaded iPhone Travel apps. 

It is expected to become shortly available on the Google Play store too. The VDS-NC Checker app complies with standards specified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). VDS-NC certificates are “like a passport chip in QR format, with the same high level of security against forgery,” the app description notes, and can be authenticated online or offline. The certificates have been developed in conformity with World Health Organization guidance on digital secure vaccination documentation, and are compatible with digital wallets and COVID-19 travel apps such as the IATA Travel Pass. 

The new app will complement authentication facilities in normal passport readers, with DFAT noting that not all countries issue ePassports, or have had the opportunity to modify their readers to consume health data. “Moreover, a need to authenticate VDS-NC certificates will not be limited to borders - health departments and other entities will also wish to process them,” DFAT said. If the QR code being checked is authentic, the app displays information from the certificate including the holder’s “biodata and COVID-19 immunisations.” The app is part of new digital infrastructure being developed by the government for vaccine passports.

Covid testing at home  

Home COVID-19 tests have been approved by the TGA for Australians from November, enabling tests to be conducted at home. The testing kits may prove to be a useful tool in resuming international travel, with home isolation tipped to replace the hotel quarantine system.  

Check your Passport 

With the welcome return of international travel on the horizon, it's not only time to haul out and dust off your passport but to check its expiry date. The reason? If your current passport expires towards the end of this year, you could find yourself unable to take that long-awaited overseas trip – including the first wave of 'travel bubbles'. Reports from the US put the wait time for processing at up to four and a half months, as Americans look to travel internationally again. Most countries require that a visitor's passport has between three and six months of validity beyond their planned stay, or you can end up being denied entry upon arrival or even refused check-in at the airport ahead of your flight. The Passport Office issued just 603,464 passports over the past year, compared with more than 1.7 million in the previous year. The means a large number of Australians have allowed their passports to expire, which could result in long wait times once borders reopen. 

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said that wait times are currently short, but applications had been gradually increasing since August. “Once international borders start to reopen, the department expects there will be high demand for passports," the spokesperson said. 

"Recent experience in the United States and the United Kingdom has shown that there was a significant increase in applications ahead of international travel restrictions being lifted in these countries, resulting in long wait times for passports. 

"While the department is doing everything it possibility can to prepare for a similar eventuality, longer-than-usual processing times cannot be ruled out."

Cruising…and Submarines 

The level of luxury planned on Scenic’s upcoming Scenic Eclipse II vessel just got a whole lot deeper, with news the cruise line has signed a partnership with submersibles manufacturer Triton Submarines to supply it with craft to carry out submarine explorations for guests.  

Scenic becomes the first cruise line to sign a distribution deal with Triton, with its configurable Triton 660/9 AVA model chosen as the craft to be installed on the luxury expedition ship. The Triton 660/9 is capable of submerging up to 200 metres under water and can accommodate up to eight passengers plus the pilot. Amazingly the submarine is also advertised as having enough interior space to be reconfigured to host private dining events, cocktail parties and weddings.  

Although Scenic’s deal is the first time a cruise line has signed up to purchase a Triton submarine, the manufacturer does have precedent in supplying its products to the tourism space, with orders already in place for a boutique resort and private yacht charter company. Scenic’s second Discovery Yacht vessel, Eclipse II, is scheduled to launch in 2023 and be equipped to navigate both polar and tropical regions. 

From Around the World 

In September, European nations dominate the top rungs of Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking for a third month, and there is a new No. 1—Ireland has taken pole position from Norway after steadily climbing the ranks from the start of 2021, when it had the worst outbreak in the world.

It pulled off the startling turnaround with a strategy used Europe-wide. Even as the peak summer travel season unfolded alongside delta’s spread, Ireland and places like Spain, the Netherlands and Finland held down serious illness and deaths through pioneering moves to largely limit quarantine-free entry to immunized people. Bestowing more domestic freedoms on the inoculated helped boost vaccination levels to some of the highest in the world—over 90% of Ireland’s adult population has received two shots—while allowing social activity to resume safely.

As the world continues to work its way through to the ‘new normal and opening up’ and the pace of change for travel increases, I will keep you updated. If there is anything you have a particular interest in, please let us know. 


David Sumich, Managing Director

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