ACI and IATA Call for End to Intra-EU COVID Travel Restrictions -Runway Girl
ACI EUROPE (Airports Council International) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have called for the abandonment of all remaining COVID restrictions applying to intra-EU and Schengen travel, including any testing requirements, the need to show proof of vaccination or complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF). This includes discontinuing mask-wearing for travel within or between states where it is no longer required in other indoor settings.
COVID-19, and specifically the Omicron variant, is now widespread across Europe, and population immunity is at such levels that the risk of hospitalization or death has dropped significantly, especially for vaccinated people. States are adopting surveillance strategies to ensure public health, just as they do for other coronaviruses and infectious diseases.
Many European states have lifted national restrictions related to COVID, such as the need to provide health documents to participate in social events or the obligation to wear masks in public spaces. Contact tracing efforts are also suspended, making PLFs for international travel redundant. As European countries open and remove restrictions, it makes sense to remove similar restrictions from air travel.
IATA and ACI EUROPE presented further evidence in support of the alignment of air transport rules with national regulations. A new study from OXERA/Edge Health published today shows that even if a new variant is discovered and travel restrictions are introduced immediately, it only delays the peak of infections by up to four days. In reality, by the time a new variant emerges, is identified, and restrictions are put in place, the variant is likely already circulating in communities around the world. In a scenario where restrictions are delayed by a week from identification, the peak of infections per 100,000 people is only delayed by a maximum of two days. These negligible health benefits are therefore outweighed by the significant social and economic damage caused by the negative impact on air travel.
“March 11 marks exactly two years since the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. During this period, we have seen growing evidence that border restrictions are ineffective. The latest research from OXERA and Edge Health confirms that by the time a variant of concern is identified and restrictions are implemented, cross-border transmission will have already occurred. The immunity of the European population is strong and COVID-19 is now essentially an endemic disease. Now is the time to focus their COVID efforts on surveillance and remove remaining intra-EU restrictions. This will free people to travel and support the return of jobs to the European air transport and travel sectors,” said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA Regional Vice President for Europe.
“Independent research and modeling released today shows that governments can lift restrictions with confidence – both for today and for any future variants of concern. Travel restrictions have proven to be a blunt instrument with little or no impact on the transmission of the virus. The removal of all COVID-19 related restrictions will finally fully restore the freedom to travel. This will be a much needed boost for all of the travel and tourism sectors that have been forced to cut hundreds of thousands of jobs during the pandemic,” said Olivier Jankovec, Managing Director of ACI EUROPE.
In light of new research and growing signs that the severity of COVID-19 is approaching that of seasonal flu, ACI EUROPE and IATA have jointly written to the Transport and Health Ministers of all EU Member States EU, asking them to:
- remove all health-related travel and border restrictions before the summer season, at least on intra-EEA flights, in particular testing, contact tracing and vaccination certificates
- align the health restrictions applicable to aviation with those applied at national level, in particular with reference to mandates to wear masks
- allow persons vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the WHO to travel to the EEA from third countries under the same conditions as passengers vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the EMA.
ACI EUROPE and IATA also reiterated the vital role played by the EU’s Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) in giving States the confidence to reopen borders and restart travel.
“We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the EU and Member States for the development and implementation of the EU DCC. We strongly support the value of EU DCC which will remain crucial, in particular for European citizens traveling abroad as well as for third countries. Likewise, the EU DCC will be helpful in containing possible variants of concern and building industry resilience against future health outbreaks,” the letter states.
Featured image credited to IATA