World travel and tourism bodies, including airline associations, said the EU’s recommendations last week which encourage testing of passengers from China are “regrettable” and a “knee-jerk reaction”.
The associations, which include Airlines for Europe (A4E), ACI Europe, and International Air Transport Association (IATA), said it was now vital that measures be implemented by all EU member states in a uniform manner and in full compliance with the EU Aviation Health Safety Protocol to be published in the coming days by EASA and ECDC.
According to the associations, the EU’s recommendation “is at odds with the assessment published by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on 3 January 2023, which confirms that the current surge of Covid-19 cases in China is not expected to impact the epidemiological situation in the EU/EEA”.
Meanwhile, the Airports Council International (ACI) World called on governments globally to take a coordinated and risk-based approach when managing inbound travelers from China.
“We can’t repeat past mistakes. We are working with ICAO and other international organizations to protect connectivity – which is vital to fully restoring travel, trade, and tourism that provide economic and social benefits to communities worldwide, said ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira.
“In order to ensure the smooth recovery of air traffic and the benefits this brings, cooperation and the establishment of standards through ICAO, WHO and others that harmonize the processes for international travel between countries are crucial.”
Last week, several EU countries including Greece agreed to introduce pre-departure Covid-19 testing on all arrivals from China as well as mask wearing on flights from China, wastewater monitoring for aircraft arriving from China, genomic surveillance at airports with monitoring and sequencing and increased EU vigilance on testing and vaccination.
Measures were decided after a surge in coronavirus cases in China which opened to cross-border travel on January 8.
The travel bodies said additions to the safety protocol will provide detailed guidance regarding passenger testing and wastewater testing.
Echoing the joint statement, World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) President and CEO the Julia Simpson agreed that the EU’s recommendations were a “knee-jerk” reaction and a “step backwards”.
“After nearly three years, it is great news that China is finally opening up. Chinese visitors around the world contributed 253 billion dollars to the global economy in 2019, creating jobs and boosting regional economies. Introducing knee-jerk travel restrictions shows governments have learned nothing about the behavior of this virus and continue to ignore the World Health Organization’s advice that border restrictions do not stop the virus mutating or moving around the globe. The reintroduction of ineffective Covid testing to Chinese travelers is a step backwards for the global travel and tourism sector.”
A4E, ACI Europe and IATA added that testing wastewater from airports and aircraft arriving from China was an alternative but consideration must be given to technical and operational practicalities.
The associations concluded that they hope to further engage with the EU on the reassessment of these recommendations by mid-January and at the same time urged EU member states and China to work together in this direction.
Greece announced last week that it would be requiring travelers from China to take a Covid-19 test 48 hours prior to boarding and wear a high-risk mask during the flight, said the government after a crisis meeting presided by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Health Minister Thanos Plevris.