Henley & Partners’ believes Covid-19 has caused 'indiscriminate havoc'. Picture: Pexels.
Henley & Partners’ believes Covid-19 has caused 'indiscriminate havoc'. Picture: Pexels.

How Covid-19 impacts passport power

By Travel Reporter Time of article published Apr 8, 2020

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The Covid-19 outbreak has left many travellers cancelling their travel plans, and according to the latest results of the Henley Passport Index, Covid-19 has caused "indiscriminate havoc". 

Henley & Partners’ revealed that the first ranking published in January confirmed that people were the most globally mobile than they've ever been in history. However, three months later, that image looks completely different. 

South Africa retains its rank of 56th on the index with visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to 101 destinations. 

The newly gained visa-free destination is Nigeria, which increased its accessibility to foreign visitors with the February 2020 launch of its Nigeria Visa Policy 2020. 

Henley & Partners’ Head of South, East and Central Africa, Amanda Smit, said although it’s reassuring to see the South African passport holding firm on the index, the impact of the Covid-19 virus on mobility, local markets and health security could impact on the migration of skilled labour to other destinations post-pandemic.

“The Covid-19 outbreak has caught South Africa at the height of its economic challenges, and the impact of our non-activity is already starting to show. Despite the slowdown, South Africa and other African countries need to stay on course with visa waiver policies. Visa waivers increase tourism, business travel, and bilateral economic transactions. They remain essential for inter-continental economic development. The pandemic will not last indefinitely, and economies will need to be rebuilt after the pandemic has subsided,” she said.  

Japan’s passport continues to hold the top spot on the Henley Passport Index, however, the current stringent travel restrictions mean that most non-essential travel for Japanese nationals is heavily curtailed. 

Dr Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners, said passport strength becomes temporarily meaningless during the pandemic. 

“This is, of course, something that citizens of countries with weak passports in the lower ranks of the index are all too familiar with. As public health concerns and security rightfully take precedence over all else now, even within the otherwise borderless EU, this is an opportunity to reflect on what freedom of movement and citizenship essentially mean for those of us who have perhaps taken them for granted in the past,” said Kaelin. 

Founder and Managing Partner of FutureMap, Dr Parag Khanna, said the combined effect of the coronavirus pandemic on public health, the global economy, and social behaviour could lead to much deeper shifts in our human geography and future distribution around the world. 

“This may seem ironic given today’s widespread border closures and standstill in global transportation, but as the curtain lifts, people will seek to move from poorly governed and ill-prepared ‘red zones’ to ‘green zones’ or places with better medical care. Alternatively, people may relocate to places where involuntary quarantine, whenever it strikes next, is less tortuous.”

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