Quarantine measures ‘to blunt Middle East air travel recovery’

Published: 5 July 2020 - 3 a.m.

The Middle East and Africa has the highest number of government-imposed quarantine measures in the world, which experts have warned threatens the recovery of the regional aviation market.

“The region is effectively in complete lockdown with the travel and tourism sector shuttered,” said Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East.

Government-imposed quarantine measures in 36 countries across Africa and the Middle East (AME) account for 40% of all quarantine measures globally.

IATA is urging governments in the region to implement alternatives to quarantine on arrival, saying that enforcing quarantine means countries essentially remain in lockdown even if their borders are open. A survey from IATA found that 80% of travellers are unwilling to travel when quarantine is required.

IATA’s warning comes as the two largest markets in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are together forecast to lose more than $14 billion in revenues this year. The updated outlook is around half-a-billion worse than IATA’s prediction in April.

“It is critical that AME [Africa and Middle East] governments implement alternatives to quarantine measures. [Quarantine] is detrimental in a region where 8.6 million people depend on aviation for their livelihoods," said Albakri.

IATA has proposed a layering of measures to protect public health while re-starting aviation, focused in two areas, including reducing the risk of imported cases and mitigating risk in cases where an infected person travels.

Among its suggested measures, IATA recommends discouraging symptomatic passengers from traveling, health screening and Covid-19 testing for arrivals from high-risk countries. The body also suggested contract tracing so infected travellers can isolate.

Albakri added: “Implementing a layered approach should give governments the confidence to open borders without quarantine, and passengers the confidence to fly. Air connectivity is critical to economic and sustainable development in and across AME.”

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