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IATA Calls for Removal of All Travel Barriers

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), representing the world’s airline companies, is calling on national governments to swiftly ease Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The association said it was time to remove all travel barriers as ”Covid-19 continues to evolve from the pandemic to endemic stage”. IATA says the tools are now available to shift policy focus from individual health status towards population-wide protection. 

“It is important that governments and the travel industry are well-prepared for the transition and ready to remove the burden of measures that disrupt travel,” it said.

IATA called for no quarantine or testing requirements for fully vaccinated passengers; enabling quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated travelers with a negative pre-departure antigen test result; removing travel bans; and accelerating the easing of travel restrictions.

Photo source: @IATA

“The measures have not worked,” said IATA Director General Willie Walsh. “The billions spent testing travelers would be far more effective if allocated to vaccine distribution or strengthening health care systems,” he added.

IATA cites a recently published UK study by Oxera and Edge Health which concluded that there was “extremely limited impact of travel restrictions on controlling the spread of Omicron”.

“While the study is specific to the UK, it is clear that travel restrictions in any part of the world have had little impact on the spread of Covid-19, including the Omicron variant. The UK, France and Switzerland have recognized this and are among the first to begin removing travel measures. More governments need to follow their lead. Accelerating the removal of travel restrictions will be a major step towards living with the virus,” said Walsh.

IATA Director General Willie Walsh. Photo source: IATA

IATA Director General Willie Walsh. Photo source: IATA

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended lifting or easing travel restrictions and urged for a harmonized approach to travel. Sector associations worldwide welcomed the news, confirming that travel measures aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 have not worked. 

“We have two years of experience to guide us on a simplified and coordinated path to normal travel when Covid-19 is endemic. That normality must recognize that travelers, with very few exceptions, will present no greater risk than exists in the general population. And that’s why travelers should not be subject to any greater restrictions than are applied to the general community,” said Walsh.

IATA’s chief concluded that mutually recognized policies on vaccination will be critical as the world approaches the Covid endemic phase. 

“Barrier-free travel is a potent incentive for vaccination. The sustainability of this incentive must not be compromised by vaccine policies that complicate travel or divert vaccine resources from where they can do the most good,” he said.

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