After two years of travel restrictions and its "confusing web of rules", a new survey shows "little evidence to support ongoing border restrictions and the economic havoc they create," said Willie Walsh, Director General, The International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The association is resounding its call for governments to simplify "wildly inconsistent" border rules, especially since major key markets which were previously closed are now re-opening, such as Europe, Canada, the UK, the US, Singapore, and even the draconian-ruled Australia.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General said: “Covid-19 is present in all parts of the world. Travel restrictions are a complex and confusing web of rules with very little consistency among them. And there is little evidence to support ongoing border restrictions and the economic havoc they create."
He pointed to the testing results of UK arriving passengers, where out of the three million recorded between February and August, only 42,000 tested positive — or fewer than 250 a day. That is in contrast to the daily case count of 35,000 in the UK.
"The UK economy — apart from international travel — is wide open. People should be just as free to travel,” said Walsh.
Are destinations truly open?
Only four states — Germany (pictured), France, Switzerland, and Austria — recognise immunity resulting from previous Covid-19 infection as equivalent to vaccination. Photo Credit: Getty Images/f11photo
However, a recent survey across 50 travel markets, accounting for 92% of global traffic, show a disconnect in government's border reopening measures and being "truly open".
For instance, 38 states still have some form of Covid-19 restriction on who can enter. Only seven states have no entry restrictions or quarantine requirements upon arrival. A further five have no additional restriction on who can enter but maintain quarantine measures for some after arrival.
As for the 38 states which mandate pandemic restrictions, 20 exempt or foresee exemptions from restrictions in various forms for vaccinated travellers, yet, nine states do not recognise the full WHO list of vaccines — another case of vaccine inequality.
Furthermore, there is no agreement on the duration of the validity period for a traveller to be considered vaccinated, and there is no consistency on what is needed to prove prior infection.
As for minors, there is no consistency on the age definition of minors, with less than 10 states exempting minors when they travel with vaccinated adults.
IATA has recommended this five-step framework for governments:
- Vaccines should be made available to all as quickly as possible
- Vaccinated travellers should not face any barriers to travel
- Testing should enable those without access to vaccines to travel without quarantine
- Antigen tests are the key to cost-effective and convenient testing regimes, and
- Governments should pay for testing, so it does not become an economic barrier to travel
As with all safety regulations, review periods should also be defined for Covid-19 measures, "otherwise, as we said in the aftermath of 9.11, well-intentioned measures could remain in place long after they are necessary, or have become technologically or scientifically obsolete,” said Walsh.
Walsh also stressed the importance of digital tools again, including the IATA-backed EU Digital COVID Certificate (EU DCC), and the IATA Travel Pass which recently entered regular operations.
"Experience even at today’s low levels of travel tells us that there will be chaos in airports if we rely on paper processes."