Airline industry rallies against enforced quarantine for passengers

Industry body suggests alternative measures to 14-day quarantine period, which it believes is needlessly damaging airlines’ recoveries
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The body representing airlines has called on governments to avoid imposing quarantine measures on travellers and has put forward alternatives which it believes can keep people safe while allowing the aviation industry to relaunch.

Many countries have introduced a 14-day quarantine period for anyone arriving by plane, which airline executives believe is dissuading people from travelling and causing further unnecessary damage to air travel demand.

According to data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), 83% of travellers would not consider travelling if quarantine measures were imposed on passengers at their destination. And analysis of trends during the lockdown period shows that countries imposing quarantine saw arrivals decrease by more than 90%.

“Imposing quarantine measures on arriving travellers keeps countries in isolation and the travel and tourism sector in lockdown,” said Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of IATA.

IATA’s alternative suggestions include discouraging symptomatic passengers from travelling and encouraging them to “do the right thing”. Etihad Airways recently launched a new app which helps passengers calculate their risk of having caught Covid-19 prior to travelling.

IATA said it supports health screening such as non-intrusive temperature checks. A recent survey showed that temperature checks make 80% of passengers feel safer when travelling.

In the event that an infected person does travel, IATA said it encourages the implementation of new guidelines set out by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The measures include mask wearing throughout the travel process, sanitisation, health declarations and social distancing where possible.

Contract tracing is also advised as a back-up measure should someone be detected as infected after arrival. New mobile technology has the potential to automate part of the contact-tracing process and countries including the UAE are already enforcing tracing apps for travellers.

Mr de Juniac said that health declarations, screening and testing by governments will add extra layers of protection. But he said that there are hurdles to being able to implement the full suite of measures.

“Data transmission, required for health declarations, testing and tracing, raises privacy concerns. And mutually recognised standards would be needed for testing.”

He added: “A layered approach to safety has made flying the safest way to travel while still enabling the system to function efficiently. That should be an inspirational framework to guide governments in protecting their citizens from the terrible risks of both the virus and joblessness.

“Quarantine is a lop-sided solution that protects one and absolutely fails at the other. We need government leadership to deliver a balanced protection.”

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