A test for COVID-19 as an alternative to quarantine measures? This is what the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is advocating.
The association is calling for a "rapid, accurate, affordable, easy-to-operate, scalable and systematic COVID-19 testing for all passengers before departure as an alternative to quarantine measures in order to re-establish global air connectivity."
Unfortunately, such a solution does not yet exist! But IATA intends to work with ICAO to put it in place quickly.
Moreover, according to IATA, COVID-19 tests are progressing rapidly and deployable solutions should come in the coming weeks.
More than half a year has passed
IATA recalls that more than half a year has passed since global connectivity was destroyed as countries closed their borders to fight COVID-19.
Since then, some governments have carefully reopened their borders. But the recovery has been limited, either because quarantine measures make traveling impractical or because frequent changes in COVID-19 measures make planning impossible.
Tests at the start to restore confidence
Pre-departure screening for COVID-19 is the preferred option by IATA. The association considers that "testing on arrival dents passenger confidence with the potential for quarantine at destination in the event of a positive result."
“The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic COVID-19 testing of all travellers 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. Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that will put millions of people back to work,” stated Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
According to him, finding a rapid, precise, affordable, easily administered and adaptable screening solution is all the more necessary as a second wave of contamination sets in.
Public opinion is favourable!
An IATA public opinion survey has found strong support for testing for COVID-19 in the travel process.
The survey found that some 65% of travellers polled believe quarantine should not be required if a person's COVID-19 test is negative.
It also shows that 84% of travellers think the test should be required for all travellers. In addition, 88% are willing to be tested as part of the travel process.
After wearing the mask, the implementation of COVID-19 control measures for all passengers is the measure that reassured study participants the most.
In their eyes, this measure would even be one of the three main signals that travel is safe (the other two being a vaccine or a treatment against COVID-19).
Practical problems to anticipate
IATA recognizes that there will be several practical issues in integrating testing into the travel process.
In particular, governments will need to adopt a single, globally recognized standard. To do this, airlines, airports, equipment manufacturers and governments will need to work in a fully harmonized fashion.
Temporary solution ...even after the vaccine
IATA does not see COVID-19 testing becoming a permanent fixture in the air travel experience, but it will likely be needed into the medium-term for air travel to re-establish itself.
“Many see the development of a vaccine as the panacea for the pandemic. It will certainly be an important step, but even after an effective vaccine is globally recognized, ramping up production and distribution is likely to take many months. Testing will be a much-needed interim solution,” said de Juniac.
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