By Travel Reporter Time of article publishedSep 23, 2020

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is calling for the development and deployment of “rapid, accurate, affordable, easy-to-operate, scalable and systematic” Covid-19 testing for passengers before their departure.

The organisation believes this is an alternative to quarantine measures to re-establish global air connectivity.

IATA revealed this week that they will work with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and with health authorities to implement a solution quickly. According to IATA, international travel is 92 percent down on 2019 levels.

IATA’s Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said despite some destinations reopening its borders, 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.

“The economic cost of the breakdown in global connectivity makes investing in a border-opening testing solution a priority for governments. The human suffering and global economic pain of the crisis will prolong if the aviation industry – on which at least 65.5 million jobs depend – collapses before the pandemic ends. Safety is aviation’s top priority. We are the safest form of transport because we work together as an industry with governments to implement global standards.

“With the economic cost associated with border closures rising daily and a second-wave of infections taking hold, the aviation industry must find a rapid, accurate, affordable, easy-to-operate, and scalable testing solution that will enable the world to safely re-connect and recover,” said de Juniac.

IATA’s public opinion research revealed strong support for Covid-19 testing in the travel process. Around 65 percent of travellers surveyed agreed that quarantine should not be required if a person tests negative for Covid-19.

Around 84 percent agreed that testing should be a requirement while 88% agreed that they are willing to undergo testing as part of the travel process. The research also indicated that testing will help to rebuild passenger confidence in aviation.

Survey respondents identified the implementation of Covid-19 screening measures for all passengers as an effective way of making them feel safe, followed by 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.

“By calling for the establishment of a global approach to Covid-19 testing for all passengers before departure, we are sending a clear signal of aviation’s needs. In the meantime, we are gaining practical knowledge from the testing programs that already exist as part of the various travel bubble or travel corridor initiatives around the world. We must continue with these valuable programs, which move us in the right direction by building testing experience, facilitating essential travel and demonstrating testing effectiveness,” said de Juniac.

He said Covid-19 testing before departure is the preferred option as it will create a “clean” environment throughout the travel process. IATA does not see Covid-19 testing becoming a permanent fixture in the air travel experience but believes it will be a medium-term solution.

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