A two-day Aviation Resilience & Health Workshop was organised by IATA in Singapore last week (March 4-5), where the association’s medical advisor and an infectious diseases specialist reassured attendees that catching Covid-19 on a flight was “extraordinarily low”.
The closed-door workshop, attended by more than 100 members and partners from 50 organisations in 20 countries and territories, focused on meeting the medical and regulatory aspects of the Covid-19 outbreak and working with governments.
David Powell, IATA’s medical advisor, told the media that airline medical advisers around the world are “in touch” with virus outbreaks dating back to SARS, and the workshop confirmed that existing procedures and suitable solutions for the current challenge required no changes.
Powell added there was no evidence of a passenger catching Covid-19 from a sick passenger on the same flight.
IATA, in following WHO’s guidance for the aviation industry, is not advising travel bans and with Powell adding that bans “tend to be ineffective and have significant disadvantages”. He advised each traveller “to do his own risk assessment” instead.
Powell said IATA’s messages have to be reinforced and rational messages need to get out.
While IATA respects the right of countries to issue travel bans, Anthony Council, IATA vice president, corporate communication, commented that “there needs to be consistency and clarity” – something that is very difficult right now – and called for “collaboration” for the industry and life to “return to normalcy”.
By holding the workshop, which was organised in 10 days, IATA is trying to reassure people the travel process is safe, Council added.
Isaac Bogoch, University of Toronto’s infectious diseases faculty member, reiterated it was pointless to keep adding countries to the travel ban list, pointing out that it would slow down, but not stop the spread of Covid-19.
As such, Bogoch advised travellers to consider factors such as the destination, how to get there and back from the home country, and the rules and regulations of the respective countries.
“The risk is extremely small,” Bogoch stressed. “Remember to practise good hand hygiene and try not to touch the face, the same as during flu season.”
Meanwhile, IATA revealed two scenarios in its analysis update of the financial impact of Covid-19 on 2020 global revenue losses – it is US$63 billion where it is contained in current markets, and US$113 billion with a broader spread, said chief economist Brian Pearce.