Estonia to participate in developing global coronavirus testing app

A passenger, wearing a face mask, looks at her phone at the Helsinki International Airport in Vantaa.

PHOTO: Vesa Moilanen / AFP / Scanpix

Estonian software developer Nortal that was recently voted company of the year by Enterprise Estonia (EAS) and the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is involved in the development of an application called SimplyGO that will allow people to electronically prove having been tested or vaccinated against COVID-19 abroad.

“The goal is to get rid of paper because papers can be lost and are easy to forge,” Nortal’s representative for the project Taavi Einaste said. Einaste and Peter Bauer make up the management board of ION Access and Health Gmbh in Munich.

Nortal owns a third of the joint venture, with German health insurance provider Ottonova and UAB health insurer Daman holding the remaining stakes. The goal is to have test results move to an application where officials can verify them directly from laboratories with the passenger’s consent. Postimees’ information suggests the app is already being tested in Germany and Abu Dhabi.

Head of the Estonian Aviation Cluster Kristo Reinsalu regrets that Estonia is still not among the pioneers of data exchange. “Talking about exchange of data, the Estonian e-tiger that is slumbering needs to take the lead in Europe,” Reinsalu says, adding that he knows the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has shown interest in the platform that Estonia is helping create.

Common coronavirus policy

“Estonia has a unique opportunity to restore normality to international transport!” Reinsalu finds. He believes that the app could also be used in shipping and other modes of transport. “From the passenger’s point of view, it is important for planning to be as safe and convenient as flying. It is important for everyone involved to make sure only healthy people get on the plane or at least minimize the risk of people with the virus flying.”

The European Union has also plotted a course for implementing a common coronavirus policy. On October 1, Director General of Airports Council International Europe Olivier Jankovec, Vice President of IATA Europe Rafael Schvartzman and Executive Manager of Airlines for Europe Thomas Reynaert sent a letter to Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas, Minister of the Interior Mart Helme and MP Riina Sikkut where they express concern over the chaotic situation around travel restrictions and quarantine requirements having impacted the number of airline passengers. The letter, also signed by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and Transport Commissioner Adina Valean, reads that the livelihood of 27 million Europeans who depend on aviation and tourism is at stake and forecasts internal market paralysis and national restrictions on movement to last for months to come.

“It is not sustainable,” the officials say, recalling the need to learn how to live and travel with the virus. The authors ask Estonia to help move from crisis management to risk management and voice support for the implementation of a Europewide solution called the EU Testing Protocol for Travel (EU-TPT) to replace the current patchwork of local quarantines.

Color codes for destinations

Postimees has also seen the “COVID-19 Testing and the Recovery of Travel & Tourism” proposal that details the goal of EU-TPT: to replace isolation with testing and only allow people who have tested negative to fly. The aim is to introduce a common risk assessment system and color codes for destinations where different regions would be marked as green, orange, red or gray. The two latter categories would require airline passengers to get tested before boarding a plane, whereas testing could take place off-airport or at the airport but ideally before the person enters the terminal. “In order to have an integrated travel process, airport test results need to come back inside one hour, the results need to be reliable enough and approved by EU, EEA, Swiss and UK regulators and be financed from public resources or only cost a little for passengers,” the main requirements of EU-TPT read.

“European aviation organizations are trying to have people tested before they arrive at the airport and allow them to move on to closed zones only once the result comes back negative,” CEO of Tallinn Airport Riivo Tuvike said.

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