KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for the development and deployment of 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.
IATA said it will work through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and with health authorities to implement this solution quickly.
International travel is 92 per cent down on 2019 levels. Over half a year has passed since global connectivity was destroyed as countries closed their borders to fight COVID-19.
Some governments have cautiously re-opened borders since then, but there has been limited uptake because either quarantine measures make travel impractical or the frequent changes in COVID-19 measures make planning impossible.
“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,” IATA director-general and chief executive officer Alexandre de Juniac said in a statement.
The economic cost of the breakdown in global connectivity makes investing in a border-opening testing solution a priority for governments, it said.
IATA said its public opinion research revealed strong support for COVID-19 testing in the travel process.
Some 65 per cent of travellers surveyed agreed that quarantine should not be required if a person tests negative for COVID-19.
The survey also revealed that 84 per cent agreed that testing should be required of all travellers and 88 per cent agreed to undergo testing as part of the travel process
In addition to opening borders, public opinion research also indicated that testing will help rebuild passenger confidence in aviation.
Survey respondents identified the implementation of COVID-19 screening measures for all passengers as effective in making them feel safe, second only to mask-wearing.
And, the availability of rapid COVID-19 testing is among the top three signals that travellers will look to for reassurance that travel is safe (along with the availability of a vaccine or a treatment for COVID-19).
IATA’s call is to develop a test that meets the criteria of speed, accuracy, affordability and ease of use, and that could be administered systematically under the authority of governments following agreed international standards.
It is pursuing this position through ICAO, which is leading efforts to develop and implement global standards for the safe operation of international air services amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it added.
COVID-19 testing before departure is the preferred option as it will create a “clean” environment throughout the travel process.
Testing on arrival dents passenger confidence with the potential for quarantine at destination in the event of a positive result, IATA opined.