Citing a supposed ineffectiveness of overly strict border measures, IATA (an acronym for International Air Transport Association) has called on all countries to remove restrictions for travelers, especially those who are vaccinated.
The association joins the World Health Organization (WHO) in slamming travel bans, and particularly testing regimes which place a disproportionate burden on passengers. Recently, several nations have tightened entry protocols in response to the Omicron variant, which has been driving up infection rates across continents.
IATA Deems Current Situation A “Mess” And Urges Countries To Roll Back Measures
While border closures have become an all-too-common prospect since Covid first started, recent breakthroughs in science, including the development of vaccines and other treatments, have given national governments the confidence needed to open up to tourism once again.
Unfortunately, a large majority of them, especially in the European and North American continents, still impose strict entry requirements that discourage even vaccinated individuals from traveling. France offers a clear example of a more conservative approach to the pandemic, requiring boosters for entry into venues.
However, IATA seems adamant in classing present border rules as pointless, with Director General Willie Walsh going as far as calling them a “mess”. According to him, billions of dollars that are currently spent on cross-border testing would be “far more effective” if diverted to vaccine distribution and health systems.
Further lambasting such mandates, Walsh stated “there is one problem – Covid-19. But there seems to be more unique solutions to managing travel and Covid-19 than there are countries to travel to.” His views are echoed by a growing number of frustrated travelers, who still grapple with ever-changing regulations, even when immunized.
What Are IATA’s Exact Demands?
IATA’s demands to national governments reportedly include the following:
- Removal of all non-ordinary travel barriers, including those of quarantine and testing for those who are fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vacine;
- Lifting of quarantine mandates issued against the unvaccinated, so long as they present a pre-departure Covid test;
- Scrapping of blanket travel bans altogether;
- Loosening travel restrictions on the basis that travelers do not seem to represent a greater epidemiological threat than the one that already exists among general populations.
Recently, Canadian airlines also addressed the Canadian government in urging the country to abolish on-arrival PCR testing for all passengers, signalling the aviation industry is backing weary travelers in requesting immediate change.
Elaborating on the topic, Walsh affirmed that there is “mounting scientific evidence and opinion opposing the targeting of travelers with restrictions and country bans”, even though there are overly cautious nations like Australia and New Zealand still delaying reopenings nearly two years into the pandemic.
As the Director General stated, “today Omicron is present in all parts of the world“, rendering any such curbs inneficient. While a number of national entities are still reluctant in following the advice, other countries like the United Kingdom and Ireland have already relaxed travel rules, with vaccinated travelers no longer expected to undergo testing.
According to a study published by Oxera and Edge Health, if the U.K. had imposed measures to tackle Omicron earlier at the beginning of November, the peak of the current wave would have been delayed by a mere five days with only 3% fewer cases.
While the study focuses on Britain, it offers valuable insights for other European countries still going back and forth with mandates. Commenting on the U.K. study, Walsh says “it is clear that travel restrictions in any part of the world have had little impact on the spread of Covid-19, including the Omicron variant”, again urging more countries to take more steps towards “living with the virus”.
Travel Stats Improved For 2021 But There Is Still A Long Way To Go
According to IATA’s report on traffic results for 2021, travel demand was up last year when compared to a bleak 2020, even with the Omicron variant dealing the sector another heavy blow towards the final months. Compared to a pre-pandemic 2019, demand for global air travel fell down by 58.4%, though that is still an improvement over 2020’s staggering 65.8%.
Continuing to offer his thoughts on the matter, Walsh says that “the challenge for 2022 is to reinforce that confidence by normalizing travel“. This is particularly true when we take countries such as Mexico into consideration: having remained open throughout the whole of the crisis with very simple travel guidelines, the North American nation is now one of the most visited in the world.
Meanwhile, as stressed by Walsh, “several key markets” in Asia remain isolated. Lastly, the Director General personally commended France and Switzerland’s decision of significantly easing measures last week, citing that “while international travel remains far from normal“, there is “momentum in the right direction“.
Regardless of industry outcries and WHO advice, it is still up to individual states to assess what kinds of measures are needed to protect their own borders. Besides purchasing travel insurance in advance, in order to be better prepared in the event of a cancelation or other travel woes, Americans are advised to constantly check for updates on entry requirements for specific countries as they may change at very short-notice.
Traveler Alert: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance For Your Next Trip!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com