Blanket travel measures aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19’s Omicron failed, said global travel and tourism organizations this week, reiterating their call on governments to fully lift travel restrictions for the vaccinated or recovered.
Citing a new action plan tabled by the European Council which went into effect on February 1, ACI Europe (Airports Council International) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) are urging European leaders to lift all travel measures for fully vaccinated or recovered individuals holding a valid Covid-19 certificate.
The new European Council plan, which is now based on travelers’ health status and not the epidemiological situation of their country or area of origin, calls for holders of valid EU digital Covid certificates to be allowed restriction-free travel.
Both ACI Europe and IATA cite independent research conducted in Finland and Italy that confirms the validity of a traveler-centric approach and at the same time argues that the patchwork of measures to address Covid and its strains has been inefficient.
ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec said blanket measures were “causing more harm than good.”
The report found (for Italy and Finland) that maintaining pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated or recovered travelers will have no impact on the future spread of Omicron; imposing these restrictions earlier would not have stopped its spread nor significantly limited it.
According to the joint statement issued by IATA and ACI Europe, lessons must be learned to avoid repeated economic damage with no attendant public health benefit.
The two associations go on to add that in light of the new data, countries which continue to deviate from the common EU framework should rapidly align with it. In their joint statement they refer to the governments of Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Malta.
“The new regime for intra-EU/EEA travel is right to focus on a ‘person-based approach’ and to recognize that both vaccinated and recovered travelers should not be subjected to any restriction. But having common EU regimes has so far not prevented states from going their own way. This must stop. We now have further proof – travel restrictions do have a significant effect – but it’s not on public health, it’s on economic stability and livelihoods,” said Jankovec.
“The research is clear that the inevitable delay in identifying new variants means that transmission already occurs by the time travel restrictions are imposed. Keeping testing in place for vaccinated passengers therefore seems completely ineffective from the health point of view, but damages passenger confidence and national economies,” said IATA Deputy Director General Conrad Clifford.