The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has praised the relaxation of Covid-19 border measures for vaccinated passengers, as well as the broader use of affordable antigen testing adopted by Spain and France earlier this week. However, it says this is tempered by ongoing disappointment at the failure to implement harmonised measures across Europe and deep frustration at the lack of co-ordination among governments worldwide for a data-driven, risk-managed approach to re-establishing the freedom to travel.
As of 7 June, Spain opened its borders to most vaccinated travellers from around the world and allowed EU passengers to enter the country with a negative antigen test. Furthermore, passengers coming from low-risk countries (including the UK) can enter without any restrictions.
From 9 June, France opened to vaccinated travellers from all but those countries assessed as “high risk”. Vaccinated passengers from medium-risk countries will need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 antigen or PCR test, and unvaccinated people must still self-isolate for seven days.
“It’s encouraging to see more European countries taking steps to reopen borders. They recognise the opportunity created by vaccination and are making travel more affordable with the use of antigen testing. But this approach is not universal across the continent. Many European states have yet to significantly relax borders at all.
“This fragmentation should be replaced with a unified approach that is consistent with the recommendations of the EU to which they belong. People, businesses and economies would all benefit from greater alignment across Europe in relaxing measures and restoring the freedom to travel,” said IATA director general Willie Walsh,.
A consistent approach across Europe is required if the EU digital Covid certificate is to be implemented effectively by 1 July, notes IATA. Around the world, governments need to allow digital certificates to be integrated in passenger applications such as the IATA Travel Pass, in order to relieve pressure on airports and at borders from more complex passenger processing as the number of travellers ramps up.
IATA urges a more global approach
The moves by Spain, France and other European states are a step in the right direction, according to the industry body but it cautions that restoring global connectivity requires far more than regional or individual state initiatives. The G20 endorsed a data-driven approach to managing the risks of Covd-19 while re-opening borders. The upcoming G7 Leaders’ Summit from 11-13 June provides an important opportunity for these governments to use their leadership to kick-start a data-driven coordinated approach to re-establishing global air connectivity.
“Connectivity needs countries at both ends of the journey to be open. Many of the world’s largest air travel markets, such Australia, China, the UK, Japan, and Canada remain essentially closed with no clear plans to guide a reopening. Data should help these and other countries to introduce targeted policies that keep populations safe while moving towards a normality in world with Covid-19 for some time to come. The G7 has an opportunity later this month to set a risk-managed framework for re-establishing the freedom to travel in a way that is both affordable and practical. It’s critical that they take up the challenge,” commented Walsh.
In May, IATA applauded the growing number of countries making data and evidence-driven decisions to open their borders to vaccinated travellers. The latest data collected by the association, including via its Timatic service, shows that more than 20 countries have wholly or partially lifted restrictions for vaccinated passengers.