WHO says vaccines should not be mandatory for travel

Jul 16, 2021
The World Health Organization wants airlines to change their rules. Source: Getty

Vaccine passports are increasingly being considered as a way of opening up international borders and travel, however the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) has now come out saying Covid-19 vaccines should not be mandatory for travel.

According to The Courier Mail, the specialised agency has asked “all governments to not require proof of Covid-19 vaccination as a condition of international travel and remove all testing and quarantine requirements for those who are”. This will no doubt be welcomed news for those who are not planning to get the jab, or those who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine, as several reports last week suggested some countries won’t accept those who’ve had the controversial jab.

IATA, which is the trade association for 290 of the world’s airlines including Qantas and Virgin, echoed WHO’s call and said air travellers were not high risk groups. However, it’s not clear how closely each airline will follow the new advice, as Qantas has previously said it will ban travellers who don’t have the Covid-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, in Europe, several countries have already launched a “digital green passport”.

WHO’s Covid-19 International Health Regulations Emergency Committee went on to say all governments should take a “risk-based approach” to Covid to open up the world.

It reaffirmed an earlier brief, concluding: “Member States not require proof of Covid-19 vaccination as a mandatory condition for entry to or exit from a country; consider a risk-based approach to the facilitation of international travel by lifting measures, such as testing and/or quarantine requirements, to individual travellers who were fully vaccinated, at least two weeks prior to travelling.”

The new advice comes two weeks after Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled Australia’s four-phase plan out of Covid. As part of the plan, lockdowns will become a last resort, home quarantine will be available for returning vaccinated travellers and vaccination will mean shorter quarantine periods — likely 7 days as opposed to 14. You can read more about each phase here.

Meanwhile, it comes as the latest Melbourne Institute pulse survey, obtained by The Australian, found a large majority of Australians believe that once fully vaccinated, people should have the freedom to move around freely, both interstate and international, without restriction.

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