The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is urging governments around the world to ease travel restrictions, saying that COVID-19 is now regionally limited and predictable.
IATA represents approximately 290 airlines comprising 83 percent of global air traffic. The organization wants all travel barriers removed (including quarantine and testing) for those fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine, as well as quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated travelers with a negative pre-departure antigen test result.
“With the experience of the Omicron variant, there is mounting scientific evidence and opinion opposing the targeting of travelers with restrictions and country bans to control the spread of COVID-19,” IATA’s Director General Willie Walsh said in a statement.
“The measures have not worked. Today, Omicron is present in all parts of the world. That’s why travel, with very few exceptions, does not increase the risk to general populations. The billions spent testing travelers would be far more effective if allocated to vaccine distribution or strengthening health care systems.”
The relaxation of #travel restrictions must accelerate as #COVID19 evolves into an endemic stage.— IATA (@IATA) January 25, 2022
The over-reaction to #omicron proved the need for simple, predictable & practical means of living with the 🦠 that don’t default to de-connecting the 🌏.
➡️ https://t.co/bj0YhRXr0B pic.twitter.com/WncZfxLRs1
Furthermore, Walsh said that the U.K., France, and Switzerland have begun easing travel bans based on a study that IATA cites which claims, “travel restrictions in any part of the world have had little impact on the spread of COVID-19, including the Omicron variant.”
The U.K. will remove testing requirements for vaccinated international passengers February 11; Australia will re-open its borders on February 21; and New Zealand, through a five-stage process, will re-open on February 27.
The U.S. lifted its restrictions in November, allowing vaccinated travelers to visit.
“More governments need to follow their lead. Accelerating the removal of travel restrictions will be a major step towards living with the virus,” Walsh said. “We must aim at a future where international travel faces no greater restriction than visiting a shop.”
IATA says it is appropriate to reframe the crisis now as endemic because society is equipped with tools to mitigate the devastating nature of COVID-19, and that the shift would allow public health entities to now expand their focus from individuals to population-wide protections.
One initiative that IATA has rolled out is its IATA Travel Pass. The app aims to simplify international travel by informing passengers of all the pertinent details they need to know to enter foreign countries, such as tests and vaccines.