The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is urging governments to avoid quarantine measures as they re-open their economies. Instead it is promoting what it calls is a “layered approach of measures.”

“Imposing quarantine measures on arriving travellers keeps countries in isolation and the travel and tourism sector in lockdown,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “Fortunately, there are policy alternatives that can reduce the risk of importing COVID-19 infections while still allowing for the resumption of travel and tourism that are vital to jumpstarting national economies. We are proposing a framework with layers of protection to keep sick people from traveling and to mitigate the risk of transmission should a traveller discover they were infected after arrival.”

IATA’s suggestions include discouraging passengers from travelling if they are unwell. It says airlines are helping make this possible by offering travellers flexibility when booking, allowing them to adjust dates and so not be penalised if they do not fly at their original time.

It also says that health screening should take place “in the form of health declarations”. This would see measures such as temperature checks which may, in turn, “act as a deterrent” to those who might otherwise be considering travelling despite feeling ill.

For travellers coming from countries perceived to be higher risk, IATA advocates considering Covid-19 testing prior to arrival at the departure airport (so as not to add to airport congestion and avoid the potential for contagion in the travel process) with documentation to prove a negative result.

It admits that for this to be viable “tests would need to be widely available and highly accurate, with results delivered quickly. Test data would need to be independently validated so as to be mutually recognised by governments and securely transmitted to the relevant authorities”.

In addition, IATA is also promoting the Take-Off” guidelines published by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). These include mask wearing throughout the travel process, sanitisation, health declarations and social distancing where possible.

In order to reduce risk of transmission at destination governments are taking their own measures, which will also mitigate the risk from travellers, and contact tracing can be used as a ‘back-up’ measure. “Rapid identification and isolation of contacts contains the risk without large-scale economic or social disruption. New mobile technology has the potential to automate part of the contact-tracing process, provided privacy concerns can be addressed”.

“Safely restarting the economy is a priority” said de Juniac. “That includes travel and tourism. Quarantine measures may play a role in keeping people safe, but they will also keep many unemployed. The alternative is to reduce risks through a series of measures. Airlines are already offering flexibility so there is no incentive for sick or at-risk people to travel. Health declarations, screening and testing by governments will add extra layers of protection. And if someone travels while infected, we can reduce the risk of transmission with protocols to prevent the spread during travel or when at destination. And effective contact tracing can isolate those most at risk without major disruptions.”

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that travel and tourism accounts for 10.3 per cent of global GDP and 300 million jobs globally (direct, indirect and induced economic impact).