Drop Covid travel restrictions across Europe, urge airports and airlines

By Luke Barras-hill |

ACI Europe and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have called on governments to lift outstanding Covid restrictions concerning travel for intra-EU and Schengen countries.

Two years after Covid-19 erupted into a pandemic (11 March 2020), the associations maintain that all testing requirements, presenting proof of vaccination, or completing passenger locator forms should be scrapped.

This is in addition to removing the need for mask wearing for travel with or between states where it is no longer needed in other indoor settings.

Covid-19 and the Omicron variant is pervasive across Europe but the risk of mortality and hospitalisations has significantly reduced, particularly among the vaccinated, as population immunity rises.

In response, many European states have lifted domestic Covid restrictions and IATA and ACI argue that as European countries open up and remove these, it is logical to remove similar restrictions affecting air transport.

Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI Europe: “Travel restrictions have proven to be a blunt instrument with little to no impact on virus transmission.”

NEW RESEARCH

The associations recently cited research from Oxera and Edge Health with regards to the likely ineffectiveness of pre-departure testing in halting or slowing the transmission of Omicron.

Further evidence published today by Oxera and Edge Health suggests that the peak of infections per 100,000 people is only delayed by a maximum of four days should travel restrictions be introduced immediately.

In a scenario where restrictions are delayed by a week from identification, the peak in infections per 100,000 people is only delayed by a maximum of two days.

The associations conclude that the health benefits are therefore ‘negligible’ and ‘outweighed by the significant social and economic damage caused by the negative impact on air travel’.

“The independent research and modelling published today shows that governments can lift restrictions with confidence – both for today and for any future variants of concern,” said Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe. “Travel restrictions have proven to be a blunt instrument with little to no impact on virus transmission. Removing all Covid-19 restrictions will finally fully restore the freedom to travel. That will be a much-needed boost for the whole travel and tourism sectors which has been forced to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs during the pandemic.”

Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe, added: “March 11 marks exactly two years since the World Health Organization announced Covid-19 was a global pandemic. In that time, we have seen increasing 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 already have happened. Europe’s population immunity is strong and Covid-19 is essentially now an endemic disease. The time has come to focus their Covid efforts on surveillance and remove remaining intra-EU restrictions. This will free people to travel, and support jobs returning to the European air transport and travel sectors.”

In response to the calls, Julia Simpson, President & CEO at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), said: “WTTC fully supports the call from IATA and ACI Europe to end all remaining restrictions applying to intra-EU and Schengen Area travel.

“The patchwork of restrictions do nothing to prevent the spread of Covid but have caused serious damage to the economy, causing the loss of jobs and businesses. Over the past few weeks, we have seen economies reopening. It is time to remove these ineffective restrictions and allow people to travel freely.”

 

 

 

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