IATA calls for routine COVID-19 testing before flying
It will cooperate with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and health authorities in order to speed up the implementation of this solution
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for the development and implementation of rapid, accurate, affordable, easy-to-apply, scalable and systematic diagnostic tests for the detection of COVID-19 to all passengers before flying, an alternative to quarantine measures that aims to facilitate the restoration of global air connectivity. IATA will cooperate with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and health authorities in order to expedite the implementation of this solution.
International travel has decreased by 92% compared to 2019. More than half a year after the fall in global connectivity due to the closure of borders to contain the pandemic, some governments have reopened their borders cautiously, but without very successful in the face of the difficulty of traveling due to quarantine measures or the impossibility of planning a trip due to the constant changes in measures against COVID-19.
“The key to restoring cross-border freedom is routine COVID-19 screening of all travelers before flying. This measure will give governments the confidence to open their borders without resorting to complex risk models and subject to constant change in travel regulations. Taking these tests will restore the confidence people need to travel. And this will return millions of jobs, ”said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA Director General and CEO.
Investing in testing as the optimal solution for opening borders must be a top priority for governments to address the economic cost of declining global connectivity. The human suffering and impact of this global crisis will continue if the aviation industry - on which 65.5 million jobs depend - goes bankrupt before the pandemic ends. The needs of government support to face this crisis are increasing day by day. Revenue losses are expected to exceed $ 400 billion (US), compared to expected record losses of more than $ 80 billion (US) in 2020 in a more optimistic than current recovery scenario.
“Safety is the top priority in aviation. We are the safest means of transportation because we work together as an industry with governments to implement global standards. With an economic cost derived from the closing of borders increasing
day by day and a second wave of infections gaining ground, the aviation industry must drive cooperation with governments and diagnostic test providers to find a fast, accurate, affordable, easy to apply and scalable solution that allows the world to reconnect and recover safely, ”De Juniac said.
IATA's public opinion poll highlights support for COVID-19 testing during the travel process. 65% of the travelers surveyed agree on the exemption of quarantine measures for people who test negative in these tests.
The following survey results support passenger support for the tests:
o 84% agree that the test is required of all passengers.
o 88% would be willing to take the tests as part of the travel process.
In addition to the opening of borders, the public opinion poll also reveals that the application of the tests will help restore passenger confidence in aviation. Respondents think that the application of COVID-19 control measures to all passengers transmits safety, surpassed only by the use of masks. The availability of rapid COVID-19 tests is one of three indicators that travelers will look for to travel safely (along with the availability of a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19).
The IATA call focuses on the development of a test that meets the criteria of speed, precision, affordability and ease of application, all this coupled with a systematic administration supervised by government authorities, in line with international standards. IATA is driving this initiative through ICAO's leadership in the development and implementation of global standards for the safe operations of international commercial aviation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The evolution of testing for COVID-19 is progressing rapidly across all criteria - speed, accuracy, affordability, ease of application, and scalability. They are expected to be available in the next few weeks. “Our call for a global approach to testing all passengers for COVID-19 prior to travel is an obvious sign of the needs of aviation. In the meantime, we are gaining experience with the testing programs that are already being implemented in initiatives such as travel bubbles or health corridors around the world. We must continue with these valuable programs that allow us to increase our experience through the tests that are being carried out and demonstrating their effectiveness and facilitating the air transport so vital ”, added De Juniac.
The COVID-19 detection test before the trip is the preferred option thanks to the security it offers the passenger to travel in a "clean" environment during the entire process of
travel. Destination testing reduces passenger confidence and adds to the uncertainty of undergoing quarantine in the event of a positive result.
It will be difficult to integrate testing into the travel process and establish protocols agreed to by all industry stakeholders to ensure safe application of large-scale testing. “It is necessary to adopt the ICAO guidelines to align governments with a single, globally recognized standard that can be implemented efficiently. Airlines, airports, equipment manufacturers and governments must work in alignment to achieve this goal soon. Every day that the industry spends on land, the risk of losing more jobs increases and economic difficulties increase, ”said De Juniac.
IATA does not believe that COVID-19 testing will become a permanent fixture in the air travel experience, but estimates that it will be necessary in 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 recognized worldwide, the necessary production and distribution is likely to take many months. Testing will be a much-needed interim solution, ”said De Juniac.
Air transport is not the only industry that urgently needs testing. “The needs of health personnel must be a priority. And we are aware that educational institutions and workplaces will also demand massive and effective tests. Legislators must take into account, when prioritizing test availability, the economic stimulus that only aviation can provide. For example, the reestablishment of global connectivity will preserve employment in the travel and tourism sector, which account for 10% of global employment and the most affected by this crisis. This adds to the vital role of aviation in the development of trade and business worldwide. Reopening the borders supported by systematic testing of all passengers before traveling should be on the government's priority list, ”said De Juniac.