The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Tuesday welcomed the proposals of the European Commission to better coordinate and communicate on travel restrictions in the European Union (EU) during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
“People want to travel, but the unpredictability in the way that governments are implementing Covid-19 measures is killing demand,” said IATA Regional Vice President for Europe Rafael Schvartzman, adding that the Commission’s proposals are an opportunity for Europe to move from lockdown to managing risks by learning to live with the virus.
Key among the proposals are the following:
– Greater predictability with common criteria for introducing Covid-19 measures and advance notice of weekly changes.
– Common criteria for measures with a preference for testing over quarantine.
– Simplified communication of risk using a color-coded traffic light system: Green, Orange, Red and Grey.
“People need easy access to the information so that they can plan. They need predictability to know that the rules won’t change overnight. And they need Covid-19 testing to avoid the risk of border restrictions, or the imposition of blanket quarantine measures that make travel impossible and have the same effect on travel demand as border closures,” said Schvartzman.
Specifically, the Commission is proposing that EU member states should not restrict free movement of people traveling from another member state that comply with specific criteria.
The Commission further states that travelers arriving from “red” or “grey” states could be required to undergo a Covid-19 test after arrival or prior to departure, the Commission’s preferred option, with quarantine only imposed as a last resort.
According to Schvartzman, beyond simply measuring the spread of Covid-19, it is just as vital that governments agree the measures that should be imposed.
“Testing, together with robust track-and-tracing, is a much better solution than quarantine. The current patchwork of measures being deployed by governments around Europe makes no sense scientifically, does not encourage public confidence, and is hampering the restart of viable air services,” said Schvartzman.
According to IATA, a successful return of air travel across the EU would help economic recovery, but only a full opening up of international services will preserve the seven million jobs in aviation and the wider European economy which are at risk from the current collapse of air travel.
“Applying the same common criteria to countries outside the Schengen area would aid the process of re-opening intercontinental borders, and IATA calls on European states to implement this,” the association said.
Schvartzman underlined that the Commission can only recommend, not enforce. “We hope that this time, European states will listen, act in coordination, and use this methodology to open up borders to travelers beyond the EU,” he said.