“The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic COVID-19 testing of all travelers before departure,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “This will give governments the confidence to open their borders without complicated risk models that see constant changes in the rules imposed on travel. Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that will put millions of people back to work.”
IATA’s public opinion research revealed strong support for COVID-19 testing in the travel process. Some 65% of travelers surveyed agreed that quarantine should not be required if a person tests negative for COVID-19. Moreover, 84% agreed that testing should be required of all travelers and 88% said that they are willing to undergo testing as part of the travel process.
In addition to opening borders, public opinion research also indicated that testing helps to rebuild passenger confidence in aviation. Survey respondents identified the implementation of COVID-19 screening measures for all passengers as effective in making them feel safe, second only to mask-wearing.
The evolution of COVID-19 testing is progressing rapidly, and deployable solutions are expected in the coming weeks. There will, however, be many practical challenges to integrating testing into the travel process. The ICAO process is critical to aligning governments to a single global standard that can be efficiently implemented and globally recognized. Airlines, airports, equipment manufacturers and governments will then need to work in total alignment.
IATA does not see COVID-19 testing becoming a permanent fixture in the air travel experience, but it will likely be needed into the medium-term for air travel to re-establish itself. “Many see the development of a vaccine as the panacea for the pandemic,” said de Juniac. “It will certainly be an important step, but even after an effective vaccine is globally recognized, ramping up production and distribution is likely to take many months. Testing will be a much-needed interim solution.”