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News Article

Tests, Vaccines: Keys to Aviation’s Recovery

By Alicia Arizpe | Tue, 01/19/2021 - 14:00

As COVID-19 cases began to spike during early 2020, numerous countries responded by closing their borders to foreigners and to nationals stranded abroad. However, travel restrictions were gradually eased throughout 2020, with 70 percent of global destinations reducing their restrictions for international tourism by Nov. 1, according to a report from the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). This move was welcomed by the aviation and tourism sectors. “The lifting of travel restrictions is essential to drive our wider recovery from the social and economic impacts of the pandemic,” said Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of UNWTO.

This trend took a turn after the holidays as COVID-19 cases rose and a new strain of the virus was identified, leading some countries to revise their travel regulations. New restrictions were sharply criticized by the aviation industry. “We cannot go back to the beginning of the pandemic, closing borders or applying quarantines when even the World Health Organization has pointed out that the virus cannot be controlled this way,” said Peter Cerdá, Regional Vice President for the Americas of IATA. “There will always be an element of risk, but there are strategies to mitigate this and as an industry we have the necessary protocols in place. That is why we must learn to live with the virus without putting millions of jobs at risk and crippling the economies that depend on aviation, because there are no alternatives for fast, safe and reliable transportation.” To this date, 50 countries have closed their borders while 91 more have imposed several travel restrictions depending on the traveler’s country of origin or citizenship, explains travel platform Kayak.

Under these circumstances, industry associations are urging governments to replace restrictions with testing and, eventually, vaccination. “Recovery needs testing to replace quarantine measures,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of IATA.

Some countries are already requesting a negative COVID-19 test from all travelers. The US, for example, announced that all travelers would have to present a negative test taken at most tree days before departure starting on Jan. 26. Mexican airline Aeroméxico has indicated that it would request proof of a negative result from all passengers before boarding US flights. Ultra-low-cost airlines Volaris and Viva Aerobus have announced they will offer quick antigen testing at their US destinations, reports A21.  

Moreover, IATA urges governments to facilitate travel to those who have taken the COVID-19 vaccine, as it becomes increasingly available. IATA has recently introduced its Travel Pass, which among other features allows users to upload test results or vaccination certificates. Through this pass, IATA aims “to ensure that travelers, governments and the industry have access to reliable, cost effective, easy to use, efficient, interoperable and secure systems,” said de Juniac.

Alicia Arizpe Alicia Arizpe Senior Writer