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Increase in Covid vaccination could hold key to reopening borders for Indian travellers

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NEW DELHI: Increasing the pace of Covid vaccination in India and ensuring more and more people get the jab quickly could hold the key to reopening of international borders for desi travellers.
This likely answer to the question many Indians currently have — when will the world start reopening its doors for them as the devastating second Covid wave finally ebbs here — was given by desi travellers’ favourite international destination, Thailand. It is reopening Phuket from July 1 for fully vaccinated travellers from low risk countries, a list that does not include India at the moment.
“…hopeful we shall open borders for Indians soon and be able to welcome you all… With an increase in vaccination process in India, we hope to see an increase in the ratio of vaccinated people thereby leading to opening up of borders,” Cholada Siddhivarn, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand in Mumbai said in a communique.
As the second wave began peaking from late April, over 20 countries that have air bubbles with India started imposing restrictions on travellers from here.
This is in the form of suspension of flights (like Canada) or restricting list of eligible travellers (like UAE, UK, Germany and US). So far during the pandemic Thailand and India have not formed an air bubble, while that was being contemplated earlier this year when things were looking up.
Other countries are yet to spell out what could trigger their lifting of restrictions for travellers from India. A senior official of a leading western airline said: “The main target in EU and US right now is to reopen doors for each other this summer. That is the prime focus.”
To be sure, India is also yet to allow entry of tourist visa holders since last March. Earlier this winter India — which was relatively speaking in a better position pandemic-wise — was planning to open doors for tourists from low risk countries.
The second wave has pushed that back and the key to emerge from this position may rest with vaccination.
Meanwhile, India is looking at ways to link passport numbers with their certificate of being fully vaccinated.
“We advise people to use passport as their ID verification document for the purpose of getting vaccinated. For those who did not do so, we are looking at how to do that at a later stage to link passport number on fully vaccinated certificate,” said a senior official.
How this holds the key to resuming travel can be clear from the German model, where over 25% of the population has been vaccinated twice for Covid and get certificated with QR code (just like India).
“Travellers present the digital vaccination certificate, which proves full vaccination protection, either via app or on a printout at check-in at the airport. There, it is read and the boarding pass is issued directly and without complications. This eliminates the need to take various papers and proofs to the airport. It also makes it much more difficult to misuse forged vaccination certificates, as the system compares the data from the QR code with the booking and passenger data,” German mega carrier Lufthansa said in a statement Thursday.
“In the future, mobile check-in via smartphone will also be faster and easier: On selected routes, it will soon be possible to scan QR vaccination certificates with the Lufthansa app or to load them digitally into the app. The app recognises the QR code and uses this information to create the boarding pass,” Luftansa added.

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