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Covid-19: IATA Sees Progress in Opening the World to Travel

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) sees increasing momentum towards the reopening of borders and the relaxation of travel restrictions, as Covid-19 moves into the endemic phase.

“As population immunity grows, more governments are managing Covid-19 through surveillance, as they do for other endemic viruses. That is great news for a growing number of destinations that will receive a much-needed economic boost from the upcoming Easter and Northern Summer travel seasons,” said  IATA Director General Willie Walsh.

An IATA survey on travel restrictions for the world’s top 50 air travel markets (comprising 88 percent of international demand in 2019 as measured by revenue passenger kilometers) revealed the growing access available to vaccinated travelers:

  • 25 markets representing 38 percent of 2019 international demand were open to vaccinated travelers without quarantine measures or testing requirements—up from 18 markets (28 percent of 2019 international demand) in mid-February
  • 38 markets representing 65 percent of 2019 international demand were open to vaccinated travelers with no quarantine requirements—up from 28 markets (50 percent of 2019 international demand) in mid-February.

Source: IATA

Repeated surveys of passengers by IATA during the pandemic has shown that testing and especially quarantine are major barriers to travel.

The regional variations in the degree of openness among the markets are stark.​​​​

Meanwhile, travel in Asia remains heavily compromised by Covid restrictions. While North American and European international traffic rebounded to -42 percent of their 2019 peaks last year, traffic in Asia Pacific remained at -88 percent. Even in this region, however, there has been some progress, with India and Malaysia among the countries recently announcing relaxation of restrictions.

“Asia is the outlier. Hopefully, recent relaxations including Australia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Pakistan, and the Philippines are paving the way towards restoring the freedom to travel that is more broadly enjoyed in other parts of the world,” Walsh said.

The easing of measures reflects the growing consensus that travel restrictions such as border closures and quarantine do little to control the spread of Covid-19. A recent report by OXERA and Edge Health, looking at the spread of the Omicron variant in Europe, concluded that travel restrictions may only delay the peak of a wave by a few days.

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