Airlines want testing to replace quarantine; IATA working with WHO

IATA says it would “prefer to see some testing before departure”

The airline industry has been massively hit by the pandemic.

Recently, the United States Transportation Command (US Transcom) released the results of testing which confirmed “very low” risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard an aircraft. This is good news for the airline industry which has been massively hit by the pandemic.

Now, IATA (International Air Transport Association), which represents 290 airlines comprising 82% of global air traffic, is working with the International Civil Aviation Organization and World Health Organization (WHO) to set up a testing system to replace compulsory quarantine.

“We need testing because we need to get rid of quarantines. What we’ve seen so far is if there’s a 14-day quarantine, it’s the same as closing your borders,” Conrad Clifford, IATA’s regional vice president for Asia Pacific, told Bloomberg Television on Monday (October 19).

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According to Clifford, IATA would “prefer to see some testing before departure and ideally, if we can find countries with similar levels of Covid risk, much like Singapore and Hong Kong, then that takes away the need for further testing.”

He said tests should cost less than US $10. The risk of passengers getting infected is “very low” as airlines are carrying out deeper sanitizing of planes, he added.

Last week, Singapore and Hong Kong opened an “air travel bubble” for the residents between the two countries to travel without quarantine restrictions.

The US Transcom testing, which was conducted in August, found that “the overall exposure risk from aerosolized pathogens, like coronavirus, is very low” on the types of airline aircraft typically contracted to move Department of Defense (DOD) personnel and their families, US Transcom stated. More than 300 aerosol releases, simulating a passenger infected with COVID-19, were performed over eight days using United Airlines Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 twin-aisle aircraft.

“Last week, IATA reported that since the start of 2020 there have been 44 cases of COVID-19 reported in which transmission is thought to have been associated with a flight journey, out of 1.2 billion passenger journeys in 2020. The US Transcom research provides further evidence that the risk of infection onboard an aircraft appears to be very low, and certainly lower than many other indoor environments,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.