Government AffairsIATA calls for governments to adhere to WHO advice to keep borders open for international traffic.

Revoke travel bans, urges IATA

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The goal is to move away from the "uncoordinated, evidence absent, risk-unassessed mess that travellers face", says IATA.
The goal is to move away from the "uncoordinated, evidence absent, risk-unassessed mess that travellers face", says IATA. Photo Credit: Gettyimages/YakobchukOlena

THE International Air Transport Association (IATA) is calling for governments to follow World Health Organisation (WHO) advice and immediately rescind travel bans introduced in response to the coronavirus Omicron variant.

Part of the WHO advice states, “Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. In addition, they can adversely impact global health efforts during a pandemic by disincentivising countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data.”

It also notes that that states implementing measures such as screening or quarantine “need to be defined following a thorough risk assessment process informed by the local epidemiology in departure and destination countries and by the health system and public health capacities in the countries of departure, transit and arrival.

“All measures should be commensurate with the risk, be time-limited and applied with respect to travellers’ dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms, as outlined in the International Health Regulations.”

IATA director general Willie Walsh points out that “after nearly two years with Covid-19 we know a lot about the virus and the inability of travel restrictions to control its spread. But the discovery of the Omicron variant induced instant amnesia on governments, which implemented knee-jerk restrictions in complete contravention of advice from WHO—the global expert.”

Reconsider all Omicron measures

“The goal is to move away from the uncoordinated, evidence absent, risk-unassessed mess that travellers face. As governments agreed at ICAO, and in line with the WHO advice, all measures should be time-bound and regularly reviewed. It is unacceptable that rushed decisions have created fear and uncertainty among travellers just as many are about to embark on year-end visits to family or hard-earned vacations,” said Walsh.

Walsh continues, “We also commit to a multi-layer risk management strategy for international civil aviation, which is adaptable, proportionate, non-discriminatory and guided by scientific evidence in close cooperation and coordination with the public health sector, with agreed practices harmonised to the greatest extent possible, for air travel purposes, using commonly accepted epidemiological criteria, testing requirements and vaccination, and underpinned by regular review, monitoring and timely information-sharing among States.

“Despite this clear commitment very few governments have addressed early over-reactions to Omicron. With the European CDC already signalling that a de-escalation of measures will likely be needed in the coming weeks, governments must urgently put actions behind the commitments that they made at ICAO,” said Walsh.

European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), in the latest update to its Threat Assessment Brief on the implications of Omicron in Europe, notes that “given the increasing number of cases and clusters in the EU/EEA without a travel history or contact with travel-related cases, it is likely that within the coming weeks the effectiveness of travel-related measures will significantly decrease, and countries should prepare for a rapid and measured de-escalation of such measures.”

Source: WiT

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