“The measures have not worked”: IATA urges governments to remove all travel barriers

Travel restrictions concept. Flights cancelled and unavailable amid COVID-19 chinese Wuhan pandemic virus outbreak. Airport entrance with TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS text. Blurred airplane in sky.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged governments to remove all travel barriers, including quarantine and testing, for people fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine.

The call includes enabling quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated travellers with a negative pre-departure antigen test result and removing travel bans.

IATA also called for accelerating the easing of travel restrictions in recognition that travellers pose no greater risk for COVID-19 spread than already exists in the general population.

According to Willie Walsh, IATA’s director-general, COVID-19 is evolving from pandemic to the endemic stage.

“With the experience of the Omicron variant, there is mounting scientific evidence and opinion opposing the targeting of travellers with restrictions and country bans to control the spread of COVID-19,” said Walsh.

“The measures have not worked. Today Omicron is present in all parts of the world. That’s why travel, with very few exceptions, does not increase the risk to general populations.”

IATA cited a study by Oxera and Edge Health, which was commissioned by Manchester Airport, that “demonstrated the extremely limited impact of travel restrictions on controlling the spread of Omicron.”

The study argued that if the UK’s extra travel measures with respect to Omicron were in place at the beginning of November, before the variant was identified, the peak of Omicron would have been delayed by five days with 3 per cent lower cases.

It also said that if no testing measures were put in place for travellers, the Omicron wave would have peaked seven days earlier with an 8 per cent increase in cases and that if all travel requirements were removed today there would be no impact on Omicron case numbers or hospitalisations in the UK.

IATA’s move has received support from Australia’s Flight Centre managing director, James Kavanagh, who also calls for a return to restriction-free international travel.

“It’s time to get back to business, it’s time to fill our shelves once again, and it’s time to make a big step towards living with this virus,” Kavanagh said.

“We’ve seen the glorious images out of Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane as family and friends have reunited in recent times from all over the world and for the next critical phase, we need to focus on is getting business travellers back in the air and doing deals that will benefit Australia.

“We’ve seen a lot of commentary surrounding ‘the great resignation’ and the ‘war of talent’ – the best way to keep your staff happy and engaged is to have time with them face-to-face, to keep that culture and drive – that’s something we’re very proud of at Flight Centre Corporate.

“Businesses big and small are the backbone to this country’s economic recovery and to remove all the obstacles that still stand in the way of corporate travel would be a great way to accelerate trade and drive a stronger GDP that would be a benefit for us al.”

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