Covid-era air travel: No one want to check my vaccine passport? – Alastair Dalton

Eighteen months ago, I flew for the first time during the pandemic, unvaccinated, nervous and not knowing what to expect.

Fast forward to last weekend and I’ve just stepped off a flight back from Italy – my first foreign trip since the onset of Covid – and it feels like things are pretty much back to normal.

While back in 2020, I had travelled through the largely deserted Glasgow and Southampton airports, this month, Edinburgh and Bergamo’s passenger terminals seemed as busy as before the pandemic.

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It was a case of back to the familiar queues to drop off bags, go through security and board your aircraft.

Apart from face coverings, airport terminals appeared to be largely back to normal. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

At Bergamo airport, near Milan, spare seats were at a premium, with the stickers marking those which should be left empty for social distancing being universally ignored as a relic of a past phase of the pandemic.

If it hadn’t been for the continued requirement to wear face coverings, you could easily forget amongst all the airport bustle that Covid had happened at all.

However, what surprised me most was not once was my vaccination status inspected, remaining unopened in an NHS Scotland app on my phone.

At Edinburgh Airport, the official at bag drop only wanted to check my face matched my passport, while at the boarding gate, just my passport and boarding card were requested.

Entering Italy, no one asked to see that I was fully jagged or wanted to look at my passenger locator form.

Returning home, that vaccine QR code on my mobile similarly went unseen.

I wondered if the absence of checks was because officialdom now regarded the pandemic as effectively over as far as such requirements were concerned.

Or perhaps the level of automation at airports nowadays means that staff would have to continue to be deployed specifically for that purpose.

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Instead of the previous series of interactions with officials, many passengers now use machines to print their own baggage labels and drop them off, and scan their own passports at electronic gates.

But considering the large volumes of people in airports, it did strike me as odd not to have had my vaccine “passport” checked too – particularly when it was requested on two other occasions while I was in Italy.

The first time I encountered the need to prove I was vaccinated was to enter Caffe Florian, reputedly Europe’s oldest, in Venice’s St Mark’s Square.

Clearly, they want more than just the £9.50 for a cup of their renowned hot chocolate.

The city was busy, though thankfully not too busy, and a world away from those morale-boosting scenes of locked-down Italians singing to each other in solidarity from their apartment windows and balconies at a time when their country was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

And the second time, rather more comically, was as I was boarding a coach from Verona to Bergamo, the driver’s cigarette scattering ash in the breeze as he checked the certificate.

Just as well I was outside the bus or I’d have been as much at risk of passive smoking as Covid.


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