IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, has stressed that the industry’s situation is still perilous and called the pace of progress in reopening borders “frustrating.”

The near-term picture for aviation remains bleak. “Instead of a boost from the year-end holiday period, we got even more restrictions,” said de Juniac in a media briefing. “Governments tightened borders in a knee-jerk response to a virus mutation. Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and others added testing to their COVID-19 measures without removing quarantine requirements. In other words, they have chosen policy measures that will shut down travel.”

According to de Juniac, rather than a balanced approach, governments appear to be aiming for a zero-COVID world. “This is an impossible task that comes with severe consequences—the full extent of which it would be impossible to calculate,” he noted. “But, with this approach, we know for sure that the travel and tourism economy will not recover; jobs will continue to disappear; and the lockdown’s toll on people’s mental health will continue to grow—particularly on those who are separated from loved ones. “A more balanced public policy approach is needed—one that is based on testing as a replacement for quarantines so that we can begin addressing the severe side-effects of COVID-19 policies.”

Studies have shown that travelers are not a significant factor in community transmission if testing is used effectively. But most governments have not focused on finding ways to safely re-open borders. Consistent, well-reasoned, scientifically supported policies must be used to manage the risks of COVID-19 and travel.

“There was some good news over the holidays,” added de Juniac. “We continued to prepare for the day that governments are ready to open borders—with testing or with vaccinations. The first pilot of the IATA Travel Pass app was launched in partnership with Singapore Airlines on routes to Kuala Lumpur and to Jakarta. We are still on track for a full rollout of the app during the first quarter of this year.”

The IATA DG concluded by repeating a quotation by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres. “Aviation is an important engine of our world and will play a critical role in lifting the world to recovery from COVID-19. Let us ensure it receives the support it needs to keep the world’s nations connected and united.”

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