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New coronavirus cases are rising in Europe and elsewhere. So, travel restrictions are tightening.

The United Kingdom now requires travelers from more than 30 countries to isolate for 10 days after arriving. Canada already had that policy in effect.

And even if a country does not have such a policy in place, new restrictions could be imposed at any time. With no notice. That means passengers could get turned away when they arrive. Or have difficulty returning home.

All air passengers coming to the U.S. are required to have a recent negative COVID-19 test result. Or documentation of recovery from COVID-19. This includes American citizens.

Cruise Ship Will Launch the Program

Those restrictions are concerning to some travelers. And the travel industry. But we may be on the verge of something even more restrictive. Ironically, the travel industry is supporting it.

There’s now talk of “vaccination passports” being required prior to travel from one country to another.

In fact, it’s more than just talk. Royal Caribbean International recently made this announcement. Its ship, Adventure of the Seas, will resume sailing from the Bahamas. The seven-night excursions are being scheduled from June 12 through August.

Adult passengers need to show proof they have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Those under 18 must show a negative coronavirus test result. Crew members must also be vaccinated.

 A Bad Year for Princesses

Michael Bayley is Royal Caribbean’s president and CEO. He said, “The vaccines are clearly a game-changer for all of us.”

Bayley added, “We believe starting with cruises for vaccinated adult guests and crew is the right choice.”

The cruise industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. It started in February 2020. That’s when more than 700 passengers and crew members on board the Diamond Princess tested positive.

The next month, an outbreak occurred aboard the Grand Princess. On the way to Mexico, the ship was rerouted to California. Thousands of passengers were quarantined. More than 100 were infected and at least eight died.   

CDC Says Don’t Cruise 

The CDC lists cruise ship travel among its “Very High” concern level.

Its website reads this way. “CDC recommends that all people avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide. The risk of COVD-19 on cruise ships is very high.

“It is especially important that people with an increased risk of severe illness avoid travel on cruise ships.

“Cruise passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases. Including COVID-19. Passengers who decide to go on a cruise should get tested three to five days after your trip. And stay home for seven days after travel.”

Will New Passports Ease Fears?

We’re likely to see the vaccination passport idea enacted with other forms of travel. Including airplanes, trains and buses.

Airline officials and others in the travel and tourism industries are looking at it as a relief measure. They want to get back some of the money they lost over the last 15 months.

They believe it will make some people feel safer about traveling. And might persuade governments to loosen restrictions.

Some governments already require proof of vaccination. Including against yellow fever, rubella, cholera and others diseases. Countries including Iceland, Poland, Portugal and Cyprus have announced plans for proof-of-vaccination certificates.

There’ll Be an App for This

Travel-related trade groups are developing and testing different versions of vaccination passports.

The International Air Transport Association calls it “Travel Pass.” IBM is developing one called “Digital Health Pass.”

Any vaccination passport would be in the form of a smartphone app. Or paper documentation. 

Passengers would be required to show this proof of vaccination before boarding a plane. Or a recent negative coronavirus test result.

Expanding Beyond Travel?

So far, vaccination passports have been discussed mainly in connection with travel. But in some countries, they’re expanding upon the idea.

For example, Israel is using a “green passport.” It ensures that only people who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 can attend public events. Such as concerts.

A move in that direction in the U.S. would be worrisome for many people. Especially those who have chosen not to get a coronavirus vaccine. There is also concern about security breaches. Many people are hesitant to share health information that could be hacked.

But NBC News medical contributor Dr. John Torres thinks it will happen. He said, “Some type of vaccine certificate or passport will likely be needed. Not only for travel abroad. But possibly even to get into sporting events, theaters, hotels…”

‘Not So Fast,’ Say Some

Even if vaccination passports are limited to travel, there are those who don’t believe they are a good idea. At least not yet.

Dr. Mike Ryan is the director of the World Health Organization’s emergencies program. He says that using vaccine certification as a requirement for travel “is not advised.”

This is partly due to the fact that 25 percent of the world’s countries will not be able to administer vaccines in 2021.

The CDC is still discouraging nonessential travel, regardless of vaccination status. A spokesperson said the agency “has not issued guidance on management of vaccinated people during travel.”

Some form of vaccination passports will probably be in effect here soon. How many aspects of American life they will affect remains to be seen.

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