Would you feel safer stepping onto an airplane if you knew that everyone around you, even in close quarters, had developed antibodies to COVID-19?
With rapid testing technology rolling out and even put into use by Emirates to screen passengers in Dubai, this may be the future of travel until (and even when) a vaccine is developed.
Passengers departing on Emirates on Wednesday for Tunisia were directed to the Dubai Health Authority at check-in, who performed a blood test. Within 10 minutes, results were available revealing whether the traveller been exposed to the virus and developed antibodies against it.
Emirates says this is not just for health reasons, but for visa reasons:
“This will enable us to conduct on-site tests and provide immediate confirmation for Emirates passengers traveling to countries that require COVID-19 test certificates.”
As the world begins to re-open this summer, it is likely that many nations who re-open (if they re-open) will make so contingent upon testing that clears a passenger to fly. Such testing requirements are under discussion in Germany and the United Kingdom.
Once a vaccine is developed, it will likely become about as mandatory as requiring a yellow fever vaccination in many countries of the world.
In the meantime, though, are you willing to submit to a test before each flight?
Privacy, Civil Liberties, Accuracy Concerns?
I view anti-vaxxers as dangerous and delusional, but the science (speaking as a non-scientist) seems to suggest that COVID-19 may mutate and a vaccine may even be prove ineffective as the virus matures. That will not necessarily render a universal vaccine worthless, but there’s a possibility that a single vaccine may not be as effective as originally hoped, depending upon how COVID-19 spreads.
And any test that involves blood is certainly likely to trigger discomfort. What about a passenger who flies 2-3 times per week? Must the test be taken every time? Will it be just like a diabetes test? Will there be other, less-invasive tests that are accurate?
Speaking of accuracy, surely there will be some false positives and missed results. Will the public be willing to accept those? Would checking temperatures, heart rates, and respiratory rates be equally or even more effective?
Then there is time/scope. Whenever people say we should have Israeli-style interrogations instead of the TSA in the USA, I shake my head. Not because the Israeli system is inferior (it’s better) but because the sheer size and scope of travel in the USA (and other populated nations) makes this impossible. The manpower required would be astronomical. I suspect wide scale testing would run into the same logistical (and thereby economic) concerns in the USA.
I know, a lot of questions right now with limited answers. But I’m trying to think through a paradigm in which we could return somewhat to a semblance of normalcy when flying without the deep fear and dread that hangs over it now from so much of the population.
Until a vaccine is developed, I am quite ready to submit any blood tests or other tests knowing that those around me have also done so. It is not a perfect solution, but it is a start.