The main goal of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is to protect the Schengen Zone against terrorists and other dangerous criminals. It’s a threat that has been increasing in recent years and one that clearly needs to be contained if Schengen member states are going to continue opening their borders to the rest of the world.
But that’s not the only purpose of the ETIAS visa waiver program. It will also help to prevent the spread of disease, which is more important than ever.
How ETIAS Helps to Protect Public Health
ETIAS was first discussed in 2016, several years before COVID-19 landed on European shores and changed international travel forever. Even in those early days, there were plans in place to screen travelers for health problems, ensuring that travelers with highly infectious diseases aren’t permitted access to the Schengen member countries.
COVID-19 checks will likely remain part of the travel process for many years to come, with travelers required to either show their vaccination status or submit a negative test (in some cases, both are required). It could also be implemented into the ETIAS process, with travelers potentially being asked whether they are vaccinated and have recently had COVID.
In addition, applicants will also be asked whether they have any of the following infectious diseases:
- Hepatitis A or B
Will My Health Records Be Checked?
Your ETIAS application may be checked against available medical databases. It’s possible that these databases won’t be comprehensive or relevant enough to highlight your issue, but that’s where the questioning process comes in.
All applicants are asked a series of questions about their health status and they are expected to answer these completely and honestly. Failure to do so could lead to the ETIAS application being denied. Even if entry is granted, it could be revoked at a later date if it’s discovered that the applicant provided false or misleading information.
The Importance of ETIAS Health Checks
Rabies is a great example of why these health checks are so important. It’s a disease that has been eradicated in several countries around the world but remains a major threat in many others.
There are a small number of rabies cases reported every year in Europe and while the ETIAS program probably won’t eradicate them completely, it will minimize the risk and could save dozens and even hundreds of lives in the long run.
Can ETIAS Prevent Future Pandemics?
It has been argued that the implementation of a program like ETIAS could have helped to prevent the spread of COVID. It’s certainly a viable argument, but it’s a flawed one.
Many governments simply weren’t aware of the problem that COVID-19 caused until it was already in full swing, by which point it was difficult to know who was infected and whether their home country was a high-risk zone. By the time restrictions were being forced on Chinese travelers, the disease was already rampant in Italy, and when the countries limited access to Italians, it had already taken root in dozens of other countries.
What’s more, we didn’t have the means to test for COVID during those early stages and many infected individuals were asymptotic. If we are ever faced with another coronavirus or flu pandemic, we’ll likely face similar issues and programs like ETIAS could be powerless to prevent them.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though.
The good news is that ETIAS keeps track of travelers coming into the Schengen Zone and could prove essential in the early days of a pandemic. Databases used by ETIAS will help health authorities to track individuals who may have been exposed and, potentially, to trace their passage.