Simplified health protocols, a pending matter

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Simplified health protocols, a pending matter
Source: IATA
November 24, 2021

Almost 2 years after the emergence of Covid-19 and with a new wave in several important source markets, the industry urged governments not to impose ill-advised restrictions and enhance global connectivity


At a time when international tourism sought to unify norms and protocols that facilitate the recomposition of global connectivity and the gradual recovery of a severely damaged market, a new wave worries the authorities of several European countries that are already planning new restrictions.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on governments to take simple, predictable and practical steps to safely and efficiently facilitate the escalation of international travel as borders are reopened. Specifically, IATA urged governments to focus on three key areas:

1. Simplified health protocols

2. Digital solutions to process health credentials

3 COVID-19 measures proportional to risk levels with a continuous review process

The industry vision for addressing complexity is outlined in the recently released policy document:  From Restart to Recovery: A Plan to Simplify Travel  . 

“As governments are establishing processes to reopen borders, as agreed in the Ministerial Declaration of the ICAO High-Level Conference on COVID-19, the Plan will assist them with good practices and practical considerations. Over the next several months, we must move from individual border openings to restoring a global air transport network that can reconnect communities and facilitate economic recovery, ”said Conrad Clifford, IATA Deputy Director General.

The  planeaims to facilitate the efficient increase of global connectivity. “We must have processes in place to safely and efficiently manage the increase in international travel as borders are reopened. With over 18 months of pandemic operating experience and traveler feedback, we know that a laser focus on simplicity, predictability and practicality is essential. That is not the reality today. Governments around the world have implemented more than 100,000 measures related to COVID-19. This complexity is a barrier to global mobility that is compounded by the inconsistencies these measures have created between states, ”said Clifford.

Key recommendations include:

  • Remove all travel barriers (including quarantine and testing) for those who are fully vaccinated with a WHO approved vaccine.
  • Allow non-quarantine travel for unvaccinated travelers with a negative antigen test result prior to departure.

These recommendations are supported by public opinion research from travelers that revealed that:

  • 80% believe that vaccinated people should be able to travel freely
  • 81% believe that getting tested before traveling is an acceptable alternative to vaccination.
  • 73% believe that quarantine is not necessary for vaccinated travelers

Digital solutions for processing health credentials: The management of travel health credentials (vaccination certificates or tests) should be handled digitally and allow travelers to complete the process in advance so that they can arrive at the airport ready to travel. This will facilitate automated check-in processes, reducing queues and waiting times at the airport. 

Key recommendations include:

  • A digital health credential to record health status. The European Digital Covid Certificate (EU DCC) is widely accepted and recognized good practice, with 22 non-EU states currently having equivalency agreements with the EU DCC.
  • A digital web portal or application through which passengers can present their travel health credentials directly to the respective governments for verification. Aruba's web portal and Canada's ArriveCAN app are good examples other countries can learn from, and Australia's Digital Passenger Declaration platform promises to further streamline processes. IATA Travel Pass can be integrated with government solutions to assist with data collection and verification. IATA is working with various governments, including Australia, to ensure a joint process, 
  • A web platform that provides clear explanations of the entry requirements tailored to the individual passenger's state of residence, health status, travel history, and any other required variables. The Travelcheck portal of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health is an example of good practice for its ease of use, simplicity and clarity.

These recommendations are supported by public opinion research from travelers that revealed that:

  • 88% support standardized vaccination and testing certificates.
  • 87% will share personal health data through an app if it saves processing time.
  • 73% found understanding the rules and paperwork applicable to their trip a real challenge (those who traveled since June 2020)

COVID-19 Measures Proportionate to Risk Levels with a Continuous Review Process - Industry and governments have accumulated vast and crucial experience with COVID-19. This will continue as COVID-19 becomes endemic. COVID-19 measures must reflect this growing awareness, changing levels of risk, and social tolerance. While day-to-day changes to the measures would introduce counterproductive unpredictability, regular reviews and adjustments are needed. 

Key recommendations include:

  • Publish the risk assessments used to make decisions related to international travel to improve predictability for both consumers and the industry.
  • Review existing processes and apply “time-out” clauses to public health measures to ensure that they are only in effect for as long as necessary.
  • Develop a roadmap to restore aviation connectivity in the post-pandemic phase. 

These recommendations are supported by public opinion research from travelers that revealed that:

  • 87% believe governments need to find the right balance in managing COVID-19 and enable an economic recovery
  • 86% believe that borders should be progressively reopened as vaccination coverage and testing capacity increase.
  • 85% believe that the use of masks on board is essential in the pandemic, but 62% believe that the requirement should be eliminated as soon as possible.

“Traveling is important. Before the pandemic, some 88 million livelihoods were directly related to aviation. And the inability to travel freely by air has affected the quality of life for billions of people. We know that travelers feel confident with the implementation of COVID-19 security measures. But we have been clearly told that today's travel experience must improve with better information, simpler processing, and digital solutions. The ICAO HLCC Ministerial Declaration aligns with those of the G20 and G7 in confirming that governments want to restore the social and economic benefits of global mobility. For that, industry and government must work together with a common vision of processes that are convenient for travelers,

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and the European Travel Commission (ETC), with the support of several key travel stakeholders, have urged EU Member States to align their responses to the deteriorating tourism situation. COVID-19 and avoid imposing any limits on freedom of movement in Europe.

The organizations say the sector cannot afford inconsistent and changing national responses, and a joint EU approach is the only solution to save Europe's Travel & Tourism sector. 

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) now recognizes that EU travel restrictions have not had a significant impact on reducing virus transmission, hospitalizations or deaths.

WTTC and ETC emphasize that measures aimed at restricting border crossing would not have any health benefits, but could have a major economic impact in the region.

According to the latest WTTC research, up to 900,000 jobs are at risk in the EU travel and tourism sector this year if travel restrictions are re-imposed this winter.

Furthermore, EU governments could see up to € 35 billion removed from the sector's contribution to the economy before the end of 2021 if severe travel restrictions are re-enacted.

WTTC and ETC say that EU member states have the power to influence and drive the coordinated recovery effort necessary to preserve the sector and only a coordinated approach will save the millions of livelihoods that depend on the sector.

Julia Simpson, President and CEO of WTTC, said: “We urgently need to restore confidence to travel and not create more uncertainty. It is vital that we have a properly coordinated response across the EU that businesses and travelers alike can understand.

“The deployment of vaccination in the EU is among the best in the world, with 65% of the population now fully vaccinated. We cannot afford to reverse all the hard-earned progress made this year. This will have catastrophic consequences for employment and livelihoods.

"While we fully recognize that the protection of public health is paramount, we urge all EU member states to continue to use the EU digital COVID Certificate, which has successfully enabled fully vaccinated people to travel safely. and free ".

Luís Araújo, President of ETC, added: “As the colder months approach and some European countries face a worsening epidemiological situation, we ask EU governments to work together to guarantee freedom of movement in Europe".

“We must avoid any further uncertainty or fragmentation. With high vaccination rates, the EU COVID certificate, and strict security protocols in place, traveling safely is absolutely possible. In the run-up to the long-awaited Christmas season, EU citizens need clear and consistent rules ”.

Last year, the WTTC's investigation revealed that more than two million Travel & Tourism jobs were lost in the EU, and its latest research reveals that if large-scale restrictions were applied in 2022, another three million would be at stake next. anus.

After 18 months in which economies around the world have already been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, WTTC research also shows that if punishment restrictions remained locked in for much of the next year, it could result in more. of 143,000 million euros. being erased from the EU economy.

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