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News Article

Air Cargo Essential for COVID-19 Recovery: UN, ICAO

By Alicia Arizpe | Mon, 09/21/2020 - 11:17

As cases of COVID-19 climb over 31 million infected, it becomes increasingly clear that the effects of the pandemic go significantly beyond those of a health crisis. Mandatory confinement and social distancing have had a significant impact in many areas, ranging from individual mental health to the global economy. Under this scenario, several UN organizations have released a joint statement highlighting the importance of maintaining safe, secure and reliable supply chains for the world to recover from this crisis.

Air cargo has become an essential part of many manufacturing supply chains and the timely delivery of foodstuffs, commodities, medical supplies and many other products, representing 35 percent of the value of all goods transported. Just in 2019, 223 billion freight tons of goods were transported by air, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). However, the spread of COVID-19 disrupted global supply chains across the globe as numerous airlines grounded their fleets after border closures and shelter-in-place orders plunged demand for air travel to its lowest point in history. About half of the world’s air cargo travels in passenger flights so the numerous flight cancellations caused trouble for manufacturers, some of which resorted to chartering airplanes to deliver parts and reduce the impact on their production lines.

Supply chains disruptions were only the tip of the iceberg for global economies. Shelter-in-place policies landed a heavy hit to the aviation, hospitality, retail and tourism sectors. The outbreak quickly began infecting other economic sectors, from automotive to sports, leading the world to the worst economic slump it has faced in history.

Numerous UN organizations, including the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), ICAO and the UN Economic Commissions of Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific and Western Asia, are highlighting the need for reliable, sustainable supply chains to foster a recovery in trade, manufacturing and other key economic sectors. “We are calling on all governments to maximize their contribution of international trade and supply chains to a sustainable socio-economic recovery in post-COVID-19 times, through greater use of international legal instruments and standards, as well as strengthened regional and sectoral cooperation,” said Fang Liu, Secretary General of ICAO.

ICAO highlighted the importance of implementing Public Health Corridors (PHC) for the safe transportation of goods across borders. PHC would allow airports to keep supply chains open while protecting flight crews and air personnel and preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Alicia Arizpe Alicia Arizpe Senior Writer