The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has slammed the introduction of restrictions on travellers from China, given the existing circulation of the virus within countries’ borders.

EU countries including France, Italy and Spain have announced plans for either pre-departure or on arrival testing for travellers from China due to the soaring cases of Covid-19 in the country, and travellers on direct flights from China to the UK will be required to take pre-departure tests from January 5.

Director General Willie Walsh said in a statement that it was “extremely disappointing to see this knee-jerk reinstatement of measures that have proven ineffective over the last three years”.

Walsh added:

“Research undertaken around the arrival of the Omicron variant concluded that putting barriers in the way of travel made no difference to the peak spread of infections. At most, restrictions delayed that peak by a few days. If a new variant emerges in any part of the world, the same situation would be expected.

“That’s why governments should listen to the advice of experts, including the WHO, that advise against travel restrictions. We have the tools to manage Covid-19 without resorting to ineffective measures that cut off international connectivity, damage economies and destroy jobs. Governments must base their decisions on ‘science facts’ rather than ‘science politics’.”

Walsh also urged the Chinese government to lift the requirement for pre-departure Covid-19 tests for those travelling to China. From January 8, visitors will no longer be required to quarantine, although they will still have to provide proof of a negative PCR test 48 hours before departure for the country, and the wearing of masks on flights bound for China will remain compulsory.

Airports Council International Europe released a statement earlier this week in which it expressed “regret regarding the actions of a number of States within the EU and globally for unilaterally imposing health-related travel requirements including systematic pre-departure or on-arrival testing of travellers from China”.

ACI Europe: testing travellers from China “neither scientifically justified nor risk based”