Think back to the last time you boarded a plane to fly internationally before the pandemic. After presenting your passport at check in, you would have emptied your drink bottle, made sure any other liquids where below the accepted volume and placed in a plastic bag and separated your luggage, taking out electronic items, to go through screening at security. Then you would have removed your jacket, phone, watch and any other metal wearables, and perhaps even your shoes before proceeding through a body scanner. Prior to boarding, you would present your boarding pass and shown your passport a second time.
These procedures feel like second nature now, but when they were introduced in the early 2000’s they were considered a fundamental change to the way we travel.
In the last year a range of additional health and safety protocols have been instigated at the border already: mask wearing, physical distancing, temperature checks, enhanced cleaning, plexiglass barriers, and negative infection certificates. These aim to achieve a crucial balance between keeping our communities safe while enabling the recovery of our economies. But they aren’t perfect: no model of border security has yet proven to strike this crucial balance and around the world, industries reliant on international travel such as tourism and aviation still face industrywide collapse. Meanwhile, asymptomatic cases still slip through our borders, threatening control of the virus within the community and in many countries necessitating expensive and non-scalable mandatory quarantine for all arrivals.
Rather than returning back to the ‘normal’ travel of old, there is no option but to adapt to a ‘new normal’. The COVID-19 pandemic was a global wake up call to the need to integrate more stringent health and safety procedures into border security – from now on. If we had learnt this from the Ebola or Sars-COV-1 pandemics, millions of dollars and lives could have been saved.
To keep ourselves safe and enjoy the wonders our world has to offer, we need to be seeking new, long-term sustainable solutions that enable risk-free travel.
Additional tools such as Quantitative Immunity Testing alongside vaccine certificates can step in to scale up flight numbers without burdening the border. Existing health and safety protocols are very unlikely to disappear either; different risk groups will need to be kept separate to guard against future outbreaks. Our new travel reality will require several more health-related checks and hurdles at our airports, over and above what we all experience now, to become standard.
This might seem overwhelming, However, just as we experienced with new security measures in the early 2000’s, these protocols will become streamlined as effective models become clear. Also, while human nature dictates that we don’t necessarily like change without control, history tells us that we are very capable of adapting, especially when the gain is greater. In a few years’ time, our second great travel reset will once again feel like second nature. And, most importantly, a few more tests at the airport is a small price to pay to be able to move around the world freely while keeping our countries and communities safe