The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged governments to end travel restrictions linked to COVID-19, which change frequently, as these measures hamper the resumption of air transport.
The Association criticized the lack of agreement from countries recognizing all vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, the testing requirements and the lack of commitment to recognize the recovery certificate also with vaccination, and stressed that pre-departure testing requirements are too confusing and sometimes overwhelming for travelers, reports SchengenVisaInfo.com.
Willie Walsh, director of IATA, pointed out that the travel restrictions were introduced as a measure at the start of the pandemic and that it was not rational to keep them in place for such a long period of time.
“COVID-19 is present in all regions of the world. Travel restrictions are a complex and confusing set of rules with very little consistency between them. And there is little evidence to support the ongoing border restrictions and the economic havoc they create ”, said Walsh.
Vaccinated travelers should be exempt from entry rules
IATA proposes that vaccines be made available to all countries as soon as possible. Additionally, the Association urged governments to end travel requirements for fully vaccinated travelers. He also noted that the tests should be made available to those who do not have access to vaccines and allow those people to travel without being subjected to self-isolation.
Antigen testing is also expected to be the primary testing option, as it is considered cost effective and convenient for travel, as revealed by IATA. But, on the other hand, the Association also called on governments to start covering the costs of the tests, so that the requirement does not become an economic barrier to travel.
The Association also believes that test results for passengers arriving in the UK prove that travelers do not pose an epidemiological risk to the local population.
According to IATA, 42,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 out of three million passengers reaching UK airports between February and August, fewer positive cases than 250 per day.
However, as governments began to vaccinate their populations, countries opened up to vaccinated travelers. The first to open was the European Union, then Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
50 countries show lack of agreement on testing requirements
IATA also believes that the way the borders are reopened is very complex and that bureaucratic formalities are delaying global reconnection. According to a survey of 50 countries, 38 of them, or 76%, were subject to travel restrictions and only seven allowed unrestricted entry.
Moreover, these 38 countries are not consistent on their entry restrictions, as 20 of them intend to relax entry restrictions for vaccinated travelers, but only six of them have confirmed that ‘they exempted minors, whose age definition to make them eligible for free entry conditions had not yet been determined.
“Thirty-three states exempt minors from tests, but without consistency on age and, in some cases, different rules if the minor is accompanied by a vaccinated adult”, IATA noted.
In addition, nine countries do not recognize vaccines approved by the World Health Organization. In addition, there are five different definitions among country guidelines for vaccines considered effective.
In addition, there is no agreement on how long to wait for a vaccinated traveler after their last dose.
“Only four states (Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria) recognize immunity resulting from a previous infection with COVID-19 as equivalent to vaccination”, IATA noted, also saying there is no agreement on what is needed to prove the holder has recovered from the virus.
According to pre-departure testing, 46 out of 50 countries require one from travelers before entering those countries, and 24 countries only accept PCR testing, which is more expensive. About 16 recognize antigen tests, but these tests must be accompanied by a PCR option if the antigen test is positive.
Twenty states exempt recovered travelers from testing requirements, but there is a lack of consistency in the evidence of previous infection.
Walsh said the situation is a mess, the recovery is stalling and harmonization is unlikely to happen. IATA also spoke out on the digitization of the vaccination certificate, hailing Europe for its EUDCC initiative, advising governments to follow their example.