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Quarantine Measures Put Jobs at Risk: IATA

By Alicia Arizpe | Thu, 06/25/2020 - 08:42

The COVID-19 pandemic led numerous countries to partially or completely close their borders to protect their citizens. As countries analyze when and how to reopen, the main question is how to balance a return to normal while keeping the local population as safe as possible. Some countries are heavily favoring quarantines for tourists and returning nationals but industry associations warn that such a move will only further discourage travelers, slowing down the industry’s recovery and placing millions of jobs at risk.

The outbreak has paralyzed the aviation and tourism industries. Travel site Kayak points out that to this date, 194 countries have completely or partially closed their borders, while only 24 including Mexico have not implemented any travel restriction. For many of these countries, tourism is an essential part of the local economy and a generator of millions of jobs. Globally, tourism represents 10.3 percent of the GDP and generates 300 million direct and indirect jobs. For that reason, a growing number of nations are analyzing opening their borders. For instance, the European Commission suggested a gradual lifting of restriction for non-EU countries starting on July 1. “International travel is key for tourism and business and for family and friends reconnecting. While we will all have to remain careful, the time has come to make concrete preparations for lifting restrictions with countries whose health situation is similar to the EU's and for resuming visa operations,” said Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs at the European Commission.

However, some countries are making the decision to open their borders albeit with a forced quarantine period for all travelers. Considering that the sector is already expecting to see 1.5 billion less travelers in 2020, this measure has drawn heavy criticism from the aviation industry, which points out that 86 percent of recent travelers had shown concern of being quarantined when traveling and up to 69 percent would not travel if they were required to undergo a two-week quarantine period. “Imposing quarantine measures on arriving travelers keeps countries in isolation and the travel and tourism sector in lockdown,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The association is proposing a layered bio-security approach that would avoid the need for quarantining travelers. This proposal involves discouraging symptomatic individuals from traveling, testing for those deemed “high risk” and the implementation of risk mitigation measures including health screenings. The association urged governments to implement the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Take-Off guidelines. “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,” said de Juniac.

Alicia Arizpe Alicia Arizpe Senior Writer