IATA Headquarters. Photo: IATA

MIAMI – In a press release earlier today, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) advised governments against imposing quarantine regulations for travelers, stating that these cause the travel and tourism industries to remain severely inhibited.

Instead, the IATA suggests governments follow their proposed measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Seeking to reduce the risk of passengers bringing the virus into a country, as well as mitigating risks brought about by an infected person traveling

Reducing the Risk of Importing COVID-19

The IATA is recommending three different layers of risk reduction when it comes to preventing infected travelers spreading the virus upon arrival into the country in question.

The first is simply to discourage passengers exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus from traveling in the first place. To aid with this, airlines around the world are offering increased flexibility for booking adjustments.

Secondly, the IATA is pushing local mitigation for public health risks. This would most likely come in the form of passenger health declarations, and temperature checks at the airport.

Lastly, passengers originating from countries with higher numbers of new COVID-19 cases should be subject to testing for the virus before even leaving for the departure airport. The IATA made a point to add that these tests should be for the active virus, rather than the antibodies.

Mitigating Risk for an Infected Person Traveling

The IATA released another three layers of risk mitigation for instances where someone infected with the virus does indeed travel.

First, they are encouraging compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Take-Off guidelines, in line with those by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). These include passengers wearing masks at all times, increased sanitation, and social distancing.

Next, when a traveler is identifies as being COVID-19 positive, the isolation of those that came into contact with the infected traveler should happen immediately.

Finally, in order to reduce the spread of the virus at the destination, protocols put in place by the destination governments should be followed at all times, as this also indirectly reduces the risk of spreading through travel.

Economic Implications

Mandatory quarantine policies for passengers stop people from traveling. A recent survey of public opinions gathered that 83% of people would not even entertain the idea of traveling if a mandatory quarantine was in place upon their arrival.

That does not bode well for the travel and tourism industry, which makes up an estimated 10.3% of the global GDP, as well as 300m jobs. Obviously, the health and safety of the traveling public is the top priority, the the IATA urges that there is every economic incentive to following a layered risk management approach rather than quarantining.

The IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac closed out the press release by claiming this process will “…guide governments in protecting their citizens from the terrible risks of both the virus and joblessness. Quarantine is a lop-sided solution that protects one and absolutely fails at the other.”

IATA’s proposed alternatives to quarantine regulations come just as the U.S. States of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut decided to impose a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers from current high-risk U.S. States.