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News Article

Forced Quarantines Could Complicate Airline Recovery

By Alicia Arizpe | Wed, 05/13/2020 - 10:39

As countries analyze how to safely reopen, the idea of quarantining arriving travelers has gained some traction. But tourism and aviation groups warn that such an approach would be detrimental to the recovery of these sectors.

The COVID-19 outbreak led many nations to close their borders and or to implement shelter-in-place measures. As some countries progress in controlling the disease, they are analyzing measures that would gradually allow them to reopen and eventually permit a safe return to normal. A measure that has been put on the table by UK and Spain, two countries heavily impacted by the pandemic, is opening borders but quarantining every single traveler to prevent them from reintroducing the virus. The UK is analyzing a measure that would require visitors, both returning nationals and foreigners, to provide their lodging information and to self-isolate for 14 days. Spain will implement similar measures and from May 15, the country will partially open its borders but all travelers will be forced to isolate for two weeks. While the UK is fine tuning its policies, both countries have indicated that the measures would apply equally to visitors from outside and inside the Schengen Area. Mexican nationals and foreigners residing in Mexico would have to undergo these quarantine periods if they chose to visit those countries. Mexico, however, has not closed its borders and to this date has not implemented any quarantine measures for foreigners.

These measures have raised alarm in the tourism and aviation industries, which have already been severely hurt by the outbreak. Moreover, the industries fear that other countries will follow suit with similar policies. The International Air Travel Association (IATA) said on Wednesday that quarantine periods would further complicate the recovery of the aviation industry and “strongly urges governments to find alternatives to maintaining or introducing arrival quarantine measures as part of post-pandemic travel restrictions.”

IATA had estimated that the outbreak will cost the global aviation industry up to US$314 billion in lost revenue in 2020 and had warned that recovery might be slow as many recent travelers were considering postponing future flights by over six months in response to the global recession. The association now fears that quarantine periods will further discourage travelers. In a recent survey, it observed that 86 percent of travelers showed concern of being quarantined when traveling and that up to 69 percent would not travel if they were required to undergo a two-week quarantine period.

“Even in the best of circumstances, this crisis will cost many jobs and rob the economy of years of aviation-stimulated growth. To protect aviation’s ability to be a catalyst for the economic recovery, we must not make that prognosis worse by making travel impracticable with quarantine measures,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of IATA. The association urges for the development of alternatives to quarantine periods and suggests a “temporary risk-based layered approach” that includes restricting travel to those with COVID-19 symptoms through temperature screenings and implementing contact tracing and health declarations for asymptomatic travelers.

Alicia Arizpe Alicia Arizpe Senior Writer