Time To Talk Best Practices

IATA Applauding Countries Reopening Borders To Vaccinated Passengers

IATA has made it clear that it supports unrestricted access to travel for people who have been vaccinated and it is applauding countries that are “making data and evidence-driven decisions” to allow them to open their borders to vaccinated travellers.

The global airline industry association notes that the latest data that it has collected – including its Timatic service – indicates that over 20 countries have either wholly or partially lifted restrictions for vaccinated travellers.

And it IATA states that in cases where vaccination is not possible, access to quarantine-free travel should be provided through COVID-19 testing strategies based on widely available, free-of-charge tests.

It pointed to Germany as being among the latest countries to make quarantine alleviations for vaccinated travellers – who are no longer subject to quarantine measures (except from certain high-risk countries).

IATA also points out that Germany has removed quarantine requirements for travellers with a negative COVID-19 test result (except from certain high-risk countries).

The German government decision followed a review of scientific advice from the world-renowned Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which concluded that vaccinated travellers are no longer significant in the spread of the disease and do not pose a major risk to the German population.

Specifically, it stated that vaccination reduces risk of COVID-19 transmission to levels below the risk from a false negative rapid antigen test.

And it continued that the implementation of this policy aligns Germany with recommendations from both the European Commission and the European Parliament, based on similar scientific advice from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC). In its interim guidance on the benefits of full vaccination, the ECDC said that “based on the limited evidence available, the likelihood of an infected vaccinated person transmitting the disease is currently assessed to be very low to low.”

Similar conclusions are being reached on the other side of the Atlantic. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) has noted that “with a 90% effective vaccine, pre-travel testing, post-travel testing, and 7-day self-quarantine provide minimal additional benefit.”

Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general pointed out that: “A safe opening of borders to international travel is the goal. And scientific evidence and data such as that presented by RKI, ECDC and USC CDC should be the basis for the decision-making needed to achieve that.”

Walsh continued: “There is increasing scientific evidence that vaccination is not only protecting people but also dramatically reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This is bringing us closer to a world where vaccination and testing enables the freedom to travel without quarantine.”

And he added: “Germany and at least 20 other countries have already taken an important step forward in re-opening their borders to vaccinated travelers. These are the best practice examples for others to quickly follow.”

Travel An Incentive For Vaccination

IATA also points out that according to the US CDC, alleviations from COVID-19 restrictions are a powerful motivator for vaccination, particularly in communities where vaccine hesitancy is prevalent.

The industry association notes that this is an additional and important benefit of restriction-free travel for those vaccinated. IATA polling indicates that 81% of international travellers are willing to get vaccinated in order to be able to travel. Moreover, 74% of people in the same poll agreed that those vaccinated should be able to travel by air without restrictions.

Let’s Go Digital

IATA also says that the decisions of increasing numbers of countries to accept vaccinated travellers without quarantine measures adds pressure for a digital solution to manage vaccine certificates and COVID-19 test results.

And it argues that paper-based processes could lead to extremely long processing times at check-in and border control. They also open the door to fraud.

Digital vaccine/test certificates, coupled with passenger apps such as the IATA Travel Pass, will be needed to manage travel health credentials efficiently and securely in the restart.

In fact in recent IATA polling, there was strong support for a digital solution.

  • 89% supported globally standardized COVID-19 test or vaccination certifications
  • 84% want an app to manage their travel health credentials

Said Walsh: “A gap is opening up between countries responding to scientific evidence, and those exhibiting a lack of preparation or excessive caution in reopening borders. Countries that seize the opportunity offered by the increasing numbers of vaccinated travellers can protect their populations and reap an economic reward.”

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Posted in Airlines, COVID-19, News, Trends & Research