Sir Richard Branson told CNBC on Tuesday he hopes so-called Covid vaccination passports will be available for prospective airline passengers who have been inoculated, potentially allowing them to bypass other virus mitigation measures before traveling.
“Vaccination is everything. Once vulnerable people, in particular, have been vaccinated, I think all kinds of businesses can start opening up again: restaurants, travel companies, cruise companies,” said Branson, who co-founded the airlines Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.
“Hopefully there will be a proof-of-vaccination piece of paper that people can use to be able to get on a plane without having to be tested or without having to quarantine,” the British businessman added in an interview on “Squawk on the Street.”
Branson’s comments come a week after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it would require airline passengers to show they recently tested negative for the coronavirus before flying to the country.
And on Monday, President-elect Joe Biden‘s spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a tweet the incoming administration will keep in place an entry ban on most visitors from Europe, the U.K. and Brazil. That announcement came shortly after President Donald Trump said he would lift the travel restrictions.
Covid vaccination passports are a way for people to prove they have been inoculated against the disease, and some believe they can aid the economic recovery from the pandemic. A group backed by Microsoft and Oracle called the Vaccination Credential Initiative was recently launched. The coalition is working to develop a way for people to get an encrypted digital version of vaccination records, which could then be stored in a digital wallet of choice, such as the Apple Wallet or Google Pay.
“As the world begins to recover from the pandemic, having electronic access to vaccination, testing, and other medical records will be vital to resuming travel and more,” Mike Sicilia, executive vice president of Oracle’s Global Business Units, said in a press release about the initiative.
Airlines and the travel industry writ large have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Industry executives have consistently pointed to widespread Covid vaccinations as key to a robust recovery.
While air travel not at its pandemic-era lows, Branson said he believes there will be an uptick in the coming months as vaccinations continue to be rolled out. He complimented efforts across Great Britain to administer vaccinations, as well as Biden’s pledge to have 100 million Americans vaccinated in 100 days.
“I would hope in three or four months time, once most of the vulnerable people have been vaccinated, that we can start looking forward to late spring or summer beginning to get back to normality again,” Branson said.