News from Hong Kong appears to offer an extremely promising path to restarting a safe, reliable and straightforward means of air travel in the near future.
Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific has announced a partnership with a local biotech firm, Prenetics, to introduce a digital health passport system which could significantly ease the way towards a safer form of air travel.
The high-tech set-up would allow passengers to use a mobile app to present a negative Covid-19 result at check-in and again on arrival at their destination. Prenetics told the South China Morning Post that the pilot project will take-off on the London to Hong Kong route in October, potentially paving the way for quarantine-free travel between the two financial hubs - and at best providing a model which could be implemented globally.
Prenetics are confident that they will be able to roll out a rapid Covid-19 test before the end of the year. At the moment, the most accurate coronavirus antigen tests can take anywhere between six hours to a few days to produce results. The new test would slash this to 30 minutes, has been approved by the World Health Organisation, and is 99.9 percent accurate both in identifying positive cases and those who test negative.
Used in conjunction with a digital health app, air passengers on both sides of the corridor would be able to arrange a standardised Covid-19 test before departure. Later, the result would be uploaded to their phone and that online information would then act as a kind of digital health passport allowing access to their flight. A second test would then be performed on arrival, with another negative result granting the passenger permission to cross the border and presumably negate the need for quarantine.
The UK and Hong Kong would still need to discuss what would happen to anyone who tested positive at the arrival stage. But while there are still some potential hurdles, this news from Hong Kong appears to offer an extremely promising path to restarting a safe, reliable and straightforward means of air travel in the near future.
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