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Swap quarantine for testing, says IATA again

written by Isabella Richards | June 3, 2021
Willie Walsh, director general , IATA

The IATA has again called on governments to drop quarantine requirements for vaccinated countries, and to many passengers who have received a negative COVID test pre-flight.

The organisation said nations must shift to making “data-driven decisions” and referred to research suggesting those who test negative are incredibly unlikely to spread the disease.

“Many governments continue to require universal quarantine—either hotel-managed or self-managed. This impedes the freedom of movement, discourages international travel and destroys employment in the travel and tourism sector,” said IATA in a statement.

Ahead of the G7 Summit, IATA director general Willie Walsh joined Airbus and Boeing to utilise data collected from this past year to mitigate disease transmission during travel as an alternative to hotel quarantine.

“Data can and should drive policies on restarting global travel that manage COVID-19 risks to protect populations, revive livelihoods and boost economies,” said Walsh.

“We call on the G7 governments meeting later this month to agree on the use of data to safely plan and co-ordinate the return of the freedom to travel which is so important to people, livelihoods and businesses.”

The companies essentially want to restructure the way the world opens international travel, through Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) screening and rapid antigen tests 72 hours before boarding.

A PCR test is performed to detect genetic material from a specific organism, such as a virus. However, it can take up to four days for results and can provide false negatives up to 30 per cent of the time.

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This is because the test is extremely sensitive, sometimes detecting dead or deactivated viruses in the body, according to the Medical Device Network.

Essentially, PCR tests have been used to detect the virus since the beginning of the pandemic, but Walsh proposes that governments trust the increasing health data and use it to open international travel.

Airbus used current COVID incidence data, excluding vaccinated travellers, and allegedly found examples of less than one case per 100,000 people if a PCR test was performed before travel.

See modelling chat here.

Boeing suggested that this protocol reduces the need for quarantine, and lowers the risk of infection transmitting to the destination country.

“The passenger screening model and findings were validated using actual travel testing data from Iceland and Canada. Boeing is now modelling scenarios with vaccinated travellers. As data on new COVID-19 variants becomes available, it will also be incorporated in the model,” the press release explained.

While the data does not isolate certain groups – such as vaccinated or unvaccinated people – it states that reports from the UK NHS suggests that travelers coming to the UK (with no vaccination status) pose minor risk for introducing COVID to the country.

Walsh proposes these models after recognizing there is enough data over the past year to cautiously open borders again.

“This can keep the risk of importing COVID-19 cases low — including variants of concern — while restarting international travel with minimal infringement on the ability to live normal work and social lives. Importantly, lives that include travel,” said Walsh.

2 Comments

  • Wayne

    says:

    So IATA with a vested interest in the resumation of air travel driven by their unhappy members now give their advice on a medical issue. Really.

  • Ben

    says:

    However NZ (and I believe Australia) has had several cases which were negative pre-flight and subsequently tested positive in quarantine. Then there is the clear risk that in certain locations to be polite there are ways and means of obtaining certificates that are not exactly kosher.

    To be blunt, impeding freedom of travel and discouraging international travel is actually the point. COVID will keep mutating the longer we keep ‘managing’ it and it survives. As we have already seen it’s mutating beyond the abilities of the vaccines to keep up. Unless we want to enter an arms race with a virus in a vain attempt to ‘open up borders’ we really need to consider alternate means of isolating this thing geographically and denying it the ability to replicate. Remember the aim of the vaccine is purely to avoid severe illness, hospitalisation and death (and thereby over-running the health system… as we can see in India for example). It is NOT designed to prevent transmission, if that occurs it’s a bonus not a design criteria. It has been alive for months before we saw the Alpha strain, now the Delta strain as a serious variant of concern.

    IATA should leave the commercial impetus out of this and defer to the health professionals who have backed the various restrictions that are in play. If we focus on the money, we will lose the health battle… lose the health battle and the money problem becomes irrelevant.

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