For everyone invloved in the travel insurance sector, the tricky issue of vaccine passports is likely to remain an ongoing admin headache for the next few years. Despite many politicians – including UK PM Boris Johnson – wanting a sort of `world government’ style agreement on vaccine passports, the logistics of tracking millions of people accurately, are probably insurmountable. Politicians love the idea of controlling most people, but is our tech up to the task of constantly monitoring the Covid status of millions of travellers worldwide?
The answer is no, of course not, plus you will always have countries where corrupt officials will take bribes to allow people to fly or use a ferry port. Let’s not waste time naming names, let’s just agree it happens.
So where does that leave insurers?
THE EU PROJECT: OPEN BORDERS? YEAH, BUT NO
The EU are adamant that a vaccine passport system is workable, even though it goes completely against one of the founding principles of its organisation; free movement. Here is the latest press statement;
Today, the EU Digital COVID Certificate has reached another important milestone with the go-live of the technical system at EU level, which allows to verify certificates in a secure and privacy-friendly way. The EU certificate was proposed by the Commission to resume safe travelling this summer. It will be free of charge, secure and accessible to all. Available in digital format or on paper, it will be a proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, tested negative, or recovered from an infection.
Following the political agreement between the European Parliament and Council on the Regulation governing the certificate on 20 May, today, the technical backbone of the EU systems goes live. Set up in only two months, the EU gateway provides for the verification of the security features contained in the QR codes of all certificates. This will allow citizens and authorities to be sure that the certificates are authentic. During this process, no personal data is exchanged or retained. The go-live of the gateway completes the preparatory work at EU level.
Since 10 May, 22 countries have already tested the gateway successfully. While the Regulation will be applied from 1 July, all Member States, which have past the technical tests and are ready to issue and verify certificates, can now start using the system on a voluntary basis. Already today, seven Member States – Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland – have decided to connect to the gateway and started issuing first EU certificates, while certain countries have decided to launch the EU Digital COVID Certificate only when all functions are deployed nationwide. Therefore, more countries will join in the coming days and weeks. An updated overview is available on a dedicated webpage.
The political agreement of 20 May has to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. The Regulation will enter into application on 1 July, with a phasing-in period of six weeks for the issuance of certificates for those Member States that need additional time. In parallel, the Commission will continue to provide technical and financial support to Member States to on-board the gateway.
VACCINE PASSPORTS MIGHT NOT BE ENOUGH PROOF
There are still plenty of fearmongering stories in the mainstream media stating that you can catch Covid – any variant – and transmit it, even if you don’t feel unwell. That may lead to a situation this winter where countries insist on tests, as well as NHS vaccine status. Insurers may find they have to amend policy wordings to put that get-out clause in the T&Cs – if a country closes its borders, or insists on extra levels of local testing and that test is positive, then you don’t get the holiday refunded and all your quarantine costs met. If you did, then travel insurers would go bust this winter, obviously.
LEGAL ACTION BY MARTIN LEWIS ET AL
OK, let’s assume some holidaymakers are stranded this summer/autumn, get stung for three grand quarantine stays etc and then set up an online action group, using a well known consumer champion to fight refunds and payouts by travel insurers in 2022.
The insurance industry could be facing a bigger problem than BI claims. Much bigger. Because many of the holidaymakers work in the public sector, so they will not be going bankrupt like small businesses. That means they are in it for the long haul – no pun intended – and have the financial and time resources to pursue claims against insurers.
The travel sector has a real dilemma here; as an industry we need to offer cover post-pandemic. But covering all risks isn’t do-able. Especially with governments constantly moving the Covid goal posts. This unholy mess could get worse before it gets better.