The most recent MIQ worker who tested positive for Covid-19 was also not vaccinated. It comes amid revelations that 20 percent of border staff have not had the injection protecting them from the coronavirus.
The Japanese citizen now holds the most powerful passport in the world, even though the access it provides to other countries has greatly diminished in the post-pandemic world.
The Henley Passport Index has published the latest strength ratings for 199 different international travel documents. After the upheaval of 2020 and changing Covid-19 Travel restrictions – Japan maintains the world’s most powerful passport that grants access to 193 visa-free destinations.
Singapore takes second place with 192, followed by South Korea and Germany in joint third – both providing access to 191 destinations.
The top ten passports are rounded off by passports from within the EU block.
New Zealand, Britain and the United States share seventh place together – each of which grants visa-free access to 187 countries.
New Zealand has maintained its ranking, while Britain and the US “continue to face the eroding power of passports.” In ninth place, with access to 185 are Canada and Australia, which have also dropped places since 2020.
However, reports of passport strength come with many caveats.
Given the unpredictable nature of travel, Henley & Partners says “any degree of international travel freedom remains theoretical.”
The rankings have been compiled using IATA travel data, which shows the number of countries granting visa-free access to their holders. However, Henley & Partners acknowledged this was being done “without taking into account the temporary and growing restrictions on Covid-19 travel.”
Japan’s first place posting is simply ceremonial. The country has the top spot for number of reciprocal visa-free travel agreements – most of them suspended, or subject to quarantine or other conditions. This was only highlighted by the recent decision to ban spectators from the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics.
The index shows that countries with successful vaccine launches are poised to enjoy a greater return to global mobility. Countries such as the UAE (15) and Israel (22) – which have both moved up the rankings – also have some of the most successful vaccine shots. The United Arab Emirates is now one of the fastest climbing passports in the ranking, climbing 50 places in the last decade.
“While nobody is expecting a return to pre-pandemic levels of mobility any time soon, the outlook is now clearly more hopeful than it was a few months ago,” said Christian H Kaelin CEO of Henley & Partners.
“The latest Henley Passport Index ranking is a reminder that economic recovery and development is dependent on global mobility, including the freedom of personal travel, and that the power of passports should not be underestimated.”
‘Passport Vaccine’ Ranking
While the Index focuses on theoretical soft power, it has uncovered some worrisome trends.
There is increasing travel inequality between richer versus richer economies and documents from poorer countries. Something that is exacerbated by the Covid-19 response and access to vaccines.
“The latest results show that the gap in travel freedom is now the biggest since the index started in 2006, with Japanese passport holders able to access 167 more destinations than Afghans,” said Henley & Partners.
The prospect of new travel documents or “vaccine passports” is likely to only increase this.
Professor Mehari Taddele Maru of the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies, gave a stern warning that countries with faster vaccination programs will reap the rewards of faster international travel.
“Basically, this is attributed to the strength of the asymmetry between rich and better regulated countries on the one hand, and those that are not on the other.”
Perhaps the biggest hurdle to a return to international travel on a broad basis is the lack of a unified push for Covid 19 travel documents.
IATA ICC and even individual countries have launched a health ‘passport’ to record vaccine information. With so many competing travel documents being trialed in different countries, we may soon need a separate “vaccine passport” ranking.
So how welcome are Kiwi travel documents around the world?
While the Henley & Partner index does not take into account travel restrictions related to Covid, the competitive rating of TGlobal Passport Index identifies New Zealand as the 5th most desirable travel document.
There are 68 Covid-related bans or pre-travel authorizations affecting New Zealand passport holders, while Japan was affected by 70, dropping Japanese passports to seventh place.
Henley & Partners Passport Strength Ranking
Passport Ranking Visa-free scores
1 Japan 193
2 Singapore 192
3 Germany 191
– South Korea
4 Finland 190
5 Austria 189
6 France 188
7 Belgium 187
– New Zealand
– Great Britain
– United States of America
8 Czech Republic 186
9 Australia 185
10 Hungary 183
*Source: Henley & Partners Passport Index, based on the number of countries that grant visa-free access