The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) is beseeching governments to roll back or refrain from introducing travel restrictions, citing the disruption caused to people’s livelihoods and the negative repercussions to the wider economy, following reports from the WHO indicating that the Covid-19 outbreak has now spread to over 100 countries.
WHO has repeatedly advised against travel or trade restrictions as such measures are generally ineffective, AAPA said in a statement, noting that in the majority of the countries, the spread is now predominantly through local transmission rather than from imported cases.
Furthermore, travel restrictions cause significant disruptions to supply chains, commerce, trade, and most importantly, people’s livelihoods due to the severe economic impact, stressed AAPA.
WHO has also noted that travel restrictions if introduced, must be based on a careful risk assessment, be proportionate to the public health risk, be short in duration, and be reconsidered regularly as the situation evolves.
Medical experts have stated that air travel is safe, noted AAPA. To protect the travelling public, the airline industry has been adhering strictly to WHO and IATA guidelines on inflight hygiene and disinfection, including the stepping up of cleaning of aircraft and airline lounges, and the use of hospital grade HEPA air filtration systems on board aircraft. To date, there have been no reports of Covid-19 infections attributed to inflight transmission, according to AAPA.
The association urged for “a fundamental rethink on travel restrictions”, given that the Covid-19 outbreak is now progressing across the globe.
Andrew Herdman, AAPA director general, said: “The airline industry is fully committed to the safety and well-being of the travelling public. Asia-Pacific airlines are well-equipped to handle health crises, and are strictly following established guidelines developed by the IATA, in consultation with the WHO and Airports Council International, covering the management of public health risks.”
However, the proliferation of travel restrictions worldwide and insufficient adherence to international health regulations are imposing enormous costs on society with little or no public health benefits, said Herdman.
He added: “AAPA appreciates the leadership of WHO on this issue and calls on governments to fundamentally reconsider the rationale for such travel restrictions and measures, taking into account the disruption caused to people’s livelihoods and the negative repercussions to the wider economy.
“Governments must strengthen cooperation across borders and work together with WHO, ICAO, and other stakeholders to develop a more globally co-ordinated set of policy measures, in addressing the current outbreak, avoiding unnecessary social and economic disruption.”