Quarantine like a closed border for most travellers, warns airline body CEO

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IATA calls on governments to focus on Covid-19 testing rather than keeping borders closed. (Getty)
IATA calls on governments to focus on Covid-19 testing rather than keeping borders closed. (Getty)
  • For travellers quarantine is interpreted as though the border of a country is still completely closed.
  • This is according to research by the International Air Transport Association.
  • That is why the industry body endorses alternative measures, including Covid-19 testing before travel. 

The vast majority of travellers treat required quarantine upon arrival in a country like a complete border closure, according to research by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

That is why the airline industry's main trade association calls on governments to rather focus on measures like Covid-19 testing before someone travels, rather than keeping borders closed.

Evidence shows that quarantine measures are a massive disincentive to travel when they are government-imposed and run, compared to a home isolation quarantine approach. Government run quarantine is also very costly.

"We cannot afford to wait for the majority of people to receive a vaccine before we reopen our borders. We have to safely reopen the global economy, which will be kick-started by opening borders and getting airlift going," IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac said during a webinar on Monday.

He believes wearing a mask remains the frontline defence against the virus and a key aspect of the multi-layered approach that has been taken by the airline industry to reduce the risk of transmission during the travel journey.

James Wiltshire, assistant director of external affairs at IATA, says it is clear that there will not be a quick restart of the airline industry.

"It is not just about what the airlines do, but about the whole chain of travel. That is why it is important to get a degree of consistency across airlines and governments. The multi-layered approach supported by IATA covers everything from masks to cleaning and sanitation to screening to reducing touch points and limiting movement," he said.

He says it makes little sense that some countries still keep their borders closed when the air flow in an aircraft is "much superior" to other places which remain open like classrooms and shops. 

"We are asking governments not to wait to open their borders. All our analysis suggest that a vaccine will not be widely available until at least in the second half of 2021 and airlines do not have enough cash reserves to last that long," said Wiltshire.

"The air travel environment is safe and governments should take comfort from that."

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