The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged governments to avoid quarantine measures when re-opening their economies.
Instead IATA is promoting what they call a “Layered Approach of Measures” to reduce the risk of countries importing COVID-19 via air travel and to mitigate the possibility of transmission in cases where people may travel while unknowingly being infected.
IATA Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac saia: “Imposing quarantine measures on arriving travelers keeps countries in isolation and the travel and tourism sector in lockdown. Fortunately, there are policy alternatives that can reduce the risk of importing COVID-19 infections while still allowing for the resumption of travel and tourism that are vital to jumpstarting national economies. We are proposing a framework with layers of protection to keep sick people from traveling and to mitigate the risk of transmission should a traveler discover they were infected after arrival.”
“Safely restarting the economy is a priority. That includes travel and tourism. Quarantine measures may play a role in keeping people safe, but they will also keep many unemployed. The alternative is to reduce risks through a series of measures. Airlines are already offering flexibility so there is no incentive for sick or at-risk people to travel. Health declarations, screening and testing by governments will add extra layers of protection. And if someone travels while infected, we can reduce the risk of transmission with protocols to prevent the spread during travel or when at destination. And effective contact tracing can isolate those most at risk without major disruptions,” said de Juniac.
There are some hurdles to being able to implement the full suite of measures. “Data transmission, required for health declarations, testing and tracing, raises privacy concerns. And mutually recognized standards would be needed for testing. Governments have a common interest in finding solutions. The rapid agreement by governments to ICAO’s Take-Off guidelines demonstrates that progress on complex issues is possible where there is the political will to do so,” said de Juniac.
There is every economic incentive to make a layered approach work. The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that travel and tourism accounts for 10.3% of global GDP and 300 million jobs globally (direct, indirect and induced economic impact).
Mandatory quarantine measures stop people from traveling. Recent public opinion research revealed that 83% of travelers would not even consider traveling if quarantine measures were imposed on travelers at their destination. And analysis of trends during the lockdown period shows that countries imposing quarantine saw arrivals decrease by more than 90%—an outcome that is similar to countries that banned foreign arrivals.
“A layered approach to safety has made flying the safest way to travel while still enabling the system to function efficiently. That should be an inspirational framework to guide governments in protecting their citizens from the terrible risks of both the virus and joblessness. Quarantine is a lop-sided solution that protects one and absolutely fails at the other. We need government leadership to deliver a balanced protection,” de Juniac said.
In addition, IATA is also promoting the “Take-Off” guidelines published by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). These include mask wearing throughout the travel process, sanitisation, health declarations and social distancing where possible.
In order to reduce risk of transmission at destination, governments are taking their own measures, which will also mitigate the risk from travelers, and contact tracing can be used as a ‘back-up’ measure. “Rapid identification and isolation of contacts contains the risk without large-scale economic or social disruption. New mobile technology has the potential to automate part of the contact-tracing process, provided privacy concerns can be addressed”.