IATA calls for Covid-19 testing before departure

A health worker tests a woman for Covid-19 recently. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for the development and deployment of rapid and affordable Covid-19 testing for all passengers before departure as an alternative to quarantine measures. Photo: File

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for the development and deployment of rapid and affordable Covid-19 testing for all passengers before departure as an alternative to quarantine measures in order to re-establish global air connectivity.

The global aviation body says it will work through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and with health authorities to implement the proposed solution quickly.

 

International travel is 92 per cent down on 2019 levels.

 

Over half a year has passed since global connectivity was seriously disrupted as countries closed their borders to fight the pandemic.

 

Some governments have cautiously re-opened borders since then, but there has been limited uptake because either quarantine measures make travel impractical or the frequent changes in Covid-19 measures make planning impossible.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General said this week that the key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic Covid-19 testing of all travelers before departure.

“This will give governments the confidence to open their borders without complicated risk models that see constant changes in the rules imposed on travel,” he noted.

Testing all passengers, he added, will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence, and that it will put millions of people back to work.

Passengers board a RwandAir plane at Kigali International Airport last year. IATA has called for the development and deployment of rapid and affordable Covid-19 testing for all passengers before departure. / Photo: Sam Ngendahimana

The economic cost of the breakdown in global connectivity makes investing in a border-opening testing solution a priority for governments.

The human suffering and global economic pain of the crisis will be prolonged if the aviation industry, in which at least 65.5 million jobs depend, collapses before the pandemic ends.

The organisation says the amount of government support needed to avert such a collapse is rising.

Already lost revenues are expected to exceed $400 billion and the industry was set to post a record net loss of over $80 billion in 2020 under a more optimistic rebound scenario than has actually unfolded.

“Safety is aviation’s top priority. We are the safest form of transport because we work together as an industry with governments to implement global standards,” Juniac argued.

With the economic cost associated with border closures rising daily and a second-wave of infections taking hold, he insists the aviation industry must call on the expertise to unite with governments and medical testing providers to find a rapid, accurate and affordable testing solution.

Public opinion

IATA’s public opinion research revealed strong support for Covid-19 testing in the travel process. Some 65 per cent of travelers surveyed agreed that quarantine should not be required if a person tests negative for Covid-19.

Some 84 per cent agreed that testing should be required of all travelers, while 88 per cent agreed that they are willing to undergo testing as part of the travel process.

In addition to opening borders, public opinion research also indicated that testing will help to rebuild passenger confidence in aviation, according to IATA.

Survey respondents identified the implementation of Covid-19 screening measures for all passengers as effective in making them feel safe, second only to mask-wearing.

jbizimungu@newtimesrwanda.com

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