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Europe’s aviation sector steps up calls to end quarantines and travel restrictions


The opposition to quarantine measures and other travel restrictions appears to be gathering pace with ACI Europe and a number of other international aviation associations today urging European governments to abolish them.

The calls follow new Recommendations published by EASA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control (ECDC), which unequivocally rejects their use where transmission of the virus is already widespread.

The new EASA/ECDC guidelines also confirm that air travellers account for less than 1% of all detected COVID-19 cases and do not increase the rate of virus transmission.

“These guidelines unequivocally show quarantines to be essentially politically-driven, non-risk-based measures which bear no relation to what is actually needed to safeguard public health,” says ACI Europe director general, Oliver Jankovec.

“As such, quarantines fail the test of proportionality, a key principle of EU law – particularly since there are no equivalent measures at land borders.

“This has resulted in unprecedented limitations to the freedom of movement and the freedom to provide services. We call on national governments to immediately abolish their quarantine restrictions and restore freedom of movement for European citizens.”

IATA’s regional vice president for Europe, Rafael Schvartzman, says: “Rapid testing of passengers for COVID-19 opens the door to restarting air travel by eliminating quarantine. And the public agrees: Some 65% of travellers surveyed suggest quarantine should not apply to passengers who have tested negative.

“The EASA/ECDC protocol makes it clear that quarantine is not an effective measure in the present circumstances. And it is important that the protocol should also be applied to remove the temporary travel restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU from third countries.”

ACI Europe is adamant that a more harmonised, co-ordinated approach among EU, EEA and UK States is essential to increase clarity and predictability for citizens and businesses following the latest recommendation of the EU Council.

It also notes that such action is essential for the recovery of the aviation sector.

The EASA/ECDC guidelines consider 14-day quarantines to be effective only in the “exceptional situation” where a country has achieved full control over the virus and reduced transmission levels to close to zero, and only then for travellers entering from countries where the virus keeps circulating.

Separate analysis from ACI Europe, an Oxera study and McMaster HealthLabs in Canada are said to confirm the absence of a correlation between passenger traffic and prevalence rates at national level.

ACI Europe, for example, notes that its analysis of airport passenger data for Q3 2020 unequivocally rejects any relationship between air travel and increasing COVID-19 transmission rates.

Similarly, an Oxera’s study confirmed that the risk of introducing infections from international travel should be assessed relative to domestic infection levels.

It projected that among weekly incoming passenger volumes of 409,800 from the EU to the UK, only 0.01% of air travellers were expected to be infectious travellers being released into the UK population. This is the equivalent of one infectious person per 10,000 travellers.

While McMaster HealthLabs’ interim report on their COVID-19 study of arriving international passengers again backs up the figure of 99% of passengers testing negative.

This, says the labs, is a powerful tool to make “science-based policy decisions” and reject quarantines as a relevant approach to containment, noting that airlines and airports continue to believe that rapid testing of passengers travelling between high and low-risk areas can contribute to and support the early detection of cases amongst asymptomatic travellers.

Thomas Reynaert, managing diretor of Airlines for Europe (A4E), comments: “Rapid testing, which utilises the latest technologies available and meets the high sensitivity and sensibility criteria established by ECDC can help restore predictability, reignite passenger confidence and thus reestablish flight connectivity for European passengers.”

European Regions Airline Association (ERA) director general, Montserrat Barriga, notes: “Testing technologies are evolving quickly, and we stand ready to work with EASA, the ECDC and national governments to implement the most efficient and effective methods to get Europe moving again.”

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