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“Public Health Corridors” Can Keep Vital Air Cargo Moving: ICAO

By Alicia Arizpe | Wed, 05/20/2020 - 11:32

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of maintaining logistic networks that guarantee the safe and speedy delivery of necessary goods and life-saving medical equipment. However, global restrictions on international travel have constricted the sector, which is reliant on air transport to deliver time sensitive goods. In particular, the cancellation of a significant percentage of passenger flights has greatly complicated logistics as about half of the total cargo is shipped in those flights. While many airlines have contributed to address this gap by turning their regular aircraft into cargo planes, measures have not been enough to address the needs of the sector. For instance, during 1Q20 Mexico transported 9.5 percent less cargo that in 1Q19. “The implementation of extensive and inconsistent border restrictions in response to the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted the supply chain and delivery of essential medical supplies needed to respond to the pandemic,” said the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

To address the problems caused to air cargo and to guarantee the steady supply of necessary goods, ICAO recommends the implementation of Public Health Corridors (PHC), which would allow airports to keep supply chains open while preventing the spread of COVID-19. This strategy was developed using a risk-based approach that takes into consideration World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines concerning COVID-19, the current limitations in testing and the lack of a vaccine or a specific treatment for the disease. These measures would be reviewed and updated as necessary considering changes in detection or treatment protocols and changes in the spread of the disease.

PHCs will “address the ‘extensive and varied’ country-to-country border restrictions now in place due to national pandemic measures.” The corridors will rely on the use of “clean” crew, aircraft and airport facilities to minimize the risk of exposure to all involved in the operation. ICAO’s guidelines include regular disinfection depending on the use of the aircraft following local and WHO regulations; isolation of crew that came in contact with COVID-19 positive cases until test results come back negative or for 14 days; relief from flight duties for crew with COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing; observation of social-distancing practices by crew both on and off-duty and avoidance of long layovers for crew when possible.

These measures are designed to protect flight crews and air operators and to avoid the spread of COVID-19, while supporting the delivery of necessary goods, until better, faster testing or a vaccine are available.

Alicia Arizpe Alicia Arizpe Senior Writer