Quarantining will ‘keep many unemployed’, warns IATA chief

Published: 30 June 2020 - 5 a.m.
By: Hotelier Middle East Staff
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged governments to avoid quarantine measures when re-opening their borders for tourism. IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac has said quarantining after travel is stunting recovery rates and leaving many unemployed.

He said: “Imposing quarantine measures on arriving travellers keeps countries in isolation and the travel and tourism sector in lockdown. Fortunately, there are policy alternatives that can reduce the risk of importing COVID-19 infections while still allowing for the resumption of travel and tourism that are vital to jumpstarting national economies. We are proposing a framework with layers of protection to keep sick people from travelling and to mitigate the risk of transmission should a traveller discover they were infected after arrival.”

IATA suggests governments should discourage symptomatic passengers from travelling – airlines can help sway people to do this by offering greater flexibility on bookings as to make rescheduling easier. Another alternative to quarantining is the deployment of non-intrusive health screenings at airports.

While temperature checking isn’t a definitive way to check for COVID-19, it acts as a deterrent to travelling while unwell. Additionally, IATA recently found that up to 80% of travellers feel safer when they are temperature checked.

If governments are welcoming tourists from ‘higher-risk’ nations, they should consider asking travellers to take a COVID-19 test prior to arrival or at the departure airport. IATA strongly recommends passengers and staff alike wearing personal protection equipment, with frequent sanitisation, health declarations and social distancing made standard also.

In the event where an infected person does travel, there should be a contact tracing system in place to quickly stem the spread of the virus.

“Safely restarting the economy is a priority. That includes travel and tourism. Quarantine measures may play a role in keeping people safe, but they will also keep many unemployed. The alternative is to reduce risks through a series of measures. Airlines are already offering flexibility so there is no incentive for sick or at-risk people to travel. Health declarations, screening and testing by governments will add extra layers of protection. And if someone travels while infected, we can reduce the risk of transmission with protocols to prevent the spread during travel or when at the destination. And effective contact tracing can isolate those most at risk without major disruptions,” said de Juniac.

Recent public opinion research revealed that 83% of travellers would not even consider travelling if quarantine measures were imposed on travellers at their destination.

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