World travel and tourism organizations are reiterating their call on governments to fully lift Covid-19 travel restrictions applying to intra-EU and Schengen area travel, including all testing requirements, the need to present proof of vaccination, or complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) as well as the need to wear masks for travel.
In a joint letter to EU transport ministers, ACI Europe (Airports Council International) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) cited new research which found that blanket travel measures aimed at curbing the spread of Covid would be ineffective in the face of future variants of concern.
The call comes as the Covid-19 pandemic hits its second anniversary milestone this month.
“Covid-19, and specifically the Omicron variant, is now pervasive throughout all of Europe, and population immunity is at such levels that the risk of hospitalization or death has dramatically reduced, especially for vaccinated people,” said the organizations in their letter.
The industry groups cited recently published research indicating that even if a new variant is discovered and travel restrictions introduced immediately, this only delays the peak of infections by a maximum of only four days.
“March 11 marks exactly two years since the WHO announced Covid-19 was a global pandemic. In that time, we have seen increasing evidence that border restrictions are ineffective,” said IATA Regional Vice President for Europe Rafael Schvartzman.
He went on to add that it was time “to focus Covid efforts on surveillance and remove remaining intra-EU restrictions. This will free people to travel, and support jobs returning to the European air transport and travel sectors”.
Along the same lines, ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec said in view of the findings, governments can lift restrictions “with confidence – both for today and for any future variants of concern”, adding that travel restrictions have proven to be “a blunt instrument with little to no impact on virus transmission”.
The associations stress that removing all coronavirus restrictions will allow freedom to travel giving a much-needed boost to the travel and tourism sectors which have been hit hard by the pandemic.
More specifically, ACI Europe and IATA are requesting:
– the removal of all health-related travel and border restrictions ahead of the summer season, at least on intra- EEA flights, specifically testing, contact tracing, and vaccine certificates
– aligning health restrictions applicable to aviation to those applied nationally, particularly with reference to mask mandates
– allowing those vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine to travel into the EEA from third countries with the same conditions as those passengers vaccinated with an EMA-approved vaccine.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) said it fully supports the call from IATA and ACI Europe to end all remaining restrictions applying to intra-EU and Schengen area travel.
“The patchwork of restrictions do nothing to prevent the spread of COVID but have caused serious damage to the economy, causing the loss of jobs and businesses,” Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, said in a statement.
“Over the past few weeks, we have seen economies reopening. It is time to remove these ineffective restrictions and allow people to travel freely.”