Vaccinations Raise Hope For Europe Travel

IATA is welcoming the relaxation of COVID-19 border measures for vaccinated passengers and the broader use of affordable antigen testing adopted by Spain and France.

However, the global airline industry association said that this is tempered by ongoing disappointment at the failure to implement harmonized measures across Europe and deep frustration at the lack of coordination among governments worldwide for a data-driven risk-managed approach to re-establishing the freedom to travel.

Earlier this week (June 7), Spain opened its borders to most vaccinated travellers from around the world and allowed EU travellers to enter the country with a negative antigen test. Furthermore, passengers coming from low-risk countries (including the UK) can enter without any restrictions.

And as of June 9, France was opened to vaccinated travellers from all but those countries assessed as ‘high risk.’ Vaccinated travellers 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.

Willie Walsh, director general of IATA, observed: “It’s encouraging to see more European countries taking steps to reopen borders. They recognize 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.”

And IATA makes it clear that a consistent approach across Europe is required if the EU Digital COVID Certificate is to be implemented effectively by July 1. And around the world, governments need to allow digital certificates to be integrated in passenger applications such as 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.

The industry association said that moves by Spain, France and other European states are a step in the right direction, but restoring global connectivity requires far more than regional or individual state initiatives.

It points out that the G20 endorsed a data-driven approach to managing the risks of COVID-19 while re-opening borders. And it said that the upcoming G7 Leaders’ Summit – set to begin today, June 11 and continue to June 13 — 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.

Said Walsh: “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.”

IATA’s boss said that: “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.”

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