GENEVA, 14 January 2021: IATA is lobbying governments to replace quarantine with testing to keep flying safe and reduce the risk of Covid-19 according to director-general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac in his first Covid-19 update of the year.
IATA backs the implementation of the so-called ICAO CART recommendations proposals to replace quarantine with Covid-19 testing.
Acknowledging the situation got worse over the year-end holiday period, the IATA chief said: “While we still see airlines turning cash positive within the year, the near-term picture is bleak.
“Instead of a boost from the year-end holiday period, we got even more restrictions. Governments tightened borders in a knee-jerk response to a virus mutation. Canada, UK, Germany, Japan and others added testing to their Covid-19 measures without removing quarantine requirements. In other words, they have chosen policy measures that will shut down travel.”
In his media briefing delivered 12 January, he argued that governments were not interested in managing a balanced approach to the risks of Covid-19.
“They appear to be aiming for a zero-Covid-19 world. That is an impossible task that comes with severe consequences—the full extent of which it would be impossible to calculate.”
But he listed some of the outcomes that are already unfolding as strict quarantine rules continue.
The travel and tourism economy will not recover.
Jobs will continue to disappear.
The lockdown toll on people’s mental health will continue to grow, particularly those separated from loved ones.
He called for a more balanced public policy approach, one that would be based on testing as a replacement for quarantine “ so that we can begin addressing the severe side-effects of COVID-19 policies.”
Science suggests travellers will not be a significant risk factor if testing is adopted globally before flight departures. That prompts IATA to accuse governments of tunnel-vision on quarantine saying they lack focus on finding ways to safely reopen borders, or alleviate the self-imposed economic and mental health hardships of the lockdowns.
But there was some good news over the holidays according to the IATA briefing.
“We continued to prepare for the day that governments are ready to open borders—with testing or with vaccinations. The first pilot of the IATA Travel Pass app was launched in partnership with Singapore Airlines on routes to Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. We are still on track for a full rollout of the app during the first quarter of this year.”
He concluded the briefing by quoting from the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, who also emphasized the urgent need to re-start flying by saying that:
“Aviation is an important engine of our world and will play a critical role in lifting the world to recovery from COVID-19. Let us ensure it receives the support it needs to keep the world’s nations connected and united.”
The support starts with consistent, well-reasoned, scientifically supported policies to manage the risks of COVID-19 and travel. That is the antithesis of what we witnessed over the holiday period. Our top priority for 2021 is to change that the IATA CEO noted.