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Global Effort Launched to Safely Reopen International Borders and Restart Travel

Business Wire - Tue Jul 21, 2020

A global effort to build a secure and verifiable way for travellers to share their COVID-19 status was announced today by The Commons Project, a Swiss-based non-profit public trust.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

As governments balance travel restrictions with protecting public health, evolving border entry requirements have created hurdles to the resumption of international travel.

The challenge of ensuring trust in COVID-19 tests shared across international borders while also preserving privacy was the focus of more than 350 public and private sector leaders from 52 countries at a convening brought together on July 9 by The Commons Project, The World Economic Forum and The Rockefeller Foundation.

“Global travel and trade cannot return to pre-pandemic levels until travellers have a secure and verifiable way to document their COVID-19 status as they travel and cross borders,” Paul Meyer, CEO of The Commons Project, said at the convening. “Countries must be able to trust a traveller’s record of a COVID-19 PCR test and travellers need a way to safely share that information with airlines and airports along the way. Our CommonPass initiative lays the groundwork to address these challenges.”

Participants in the convening, including ministers of health, tourism and international cooperation, as well as senior executives from technology and travel organizations, highlighted challenges, but also found consensus around a common framework that can be trusted by travellers and governments.

The CommonPass framework will allow individuals to validate their COVID-19 status via lab results – and eventually share immunization records – without revealing any other health information.

Lab results and vaccination records will be accessible through existing health data systems, national or local registries or personal digital health records (Apple Health for iOS, or CommonHealth for Android), which let individuals store their health records securely and privately on their phones.

The framework will assess whether the individual’s records come from a trusted source and satisfy the health screening requirements of the country they want to enter. The framework is being designed to integrate with other apps and services such as country or airline-specific apps.

“As border authorities look to add testing, vaccination or other health records to entry procedures, simplicity will be key,” said John Wagner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner. “We need a single, simple and automated transaction process for travellers, airlines and government authorities. We cannot resume previous levels of travel with a standalone paper-based manual process requiring validation from multiple entities.”

Working groups composed of regional representatives will convene virtually on July 23, 2020 to discuss the CommonPass framework in more detail and plan next steps, before the framework is finalized and presented to government leaders from around the world in September 2020.

“Trust through clarity and consistency will be key to restoring confidence to travel,” said Julián Guerrero Orozco, Colombia’s Vice Minister of Tourism. “Instead of having different approaches nationally, we need common standards. We see a lot of value in international cooperation for these standards.”

“Successful reopening of travel will require trust from both citizens and governments,” said Mariko Silver, president and CEO of the Henry Luce Foundation and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “The trust of citizens in terms of their safety and privacy is just as essential for success as the trust of governments. The privacy-protecting nature of CommonPass is one of the great appeals of the platform.”

Adoption of CommonPass is the next stage in digital efforts to fight COVID-19 in the East African Community, where certified laboratories test truck drivers and share results electronically with law enforcement to facilitate safe border crossing and curb the spread of the virus.

“We may not have a vaccine yet, but East Africa has shown how digital services for public good can combat the pandemic, protect lives and preserve privacy,” said Daniel Murenzi, Principal Information Technology Officer at the East African Community. “Opening borders is our next challenge and opportunity, and the CommonPass framework provides a promising model to guide us forward.”

About The Commons Project

The Commons Project is a non-profit public trust building global digital services and platforms for the common good. Founded with support from The Rockefeller Foundation and based in Switzerland, it was established to build and operate the shared platforms and services that neither governments nor tech companies are well positioned to create. The Commons Project’s public trust governance structure is designed to ensure that people’s interests are served above all. Learn more at

Provided Content: Content provided by Business Wire. The Globe and Mail was not involved, and material was not reviewed prior to publication.