Countries across the world should not wait for the majority of people to be vaccinated against coronavirus and need to open their borders by implementing systematic pre-departure testing, IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac said on Monday.
“Our own surveys show that the vast majority of travellers treat quarantine as they would a complete border closure. They just won’t travel," he said in a pre-recorded video message at the IATA Global Media Days event.
That is why, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is calling for systematic pre-departure COVID-19 testing instead of open borders with quarantine, he added. Global air traffic has reduced drastically in 2020 due to coronavirus-triggered travel restrictions. The IATA represents around 290 airlines across the world comprising 82 per cent of global air traffic.
The IATA DG said he wanted to emphasise on how critical it is to open borders now and the reason why good news on vaccine progress “should not distract from activating testing fast". “We have plans in place to support vaccine distribution. It will probably be the biggest airlift in history. But we literally cannot afford to wait for the majority to receive the vaccine before we reopen our borders. We must start reopening now without delay," he asserted.
According to IATA’s assessment, COVID-19 vaccine won’t be widely available till the second half of 2021. Coronavirus-induced travel restrictions across the world has triggered a major crisis in the aviation sector, with many airlines struggling to survive.
Safely restarting global connectivity will help kickstart the global economy, save jobs and improve lives, de Juniac noted. “That is why it is our top priority," he added.
The Indian government is in touch with Moderna, Pfizer, Serum Institute of India, Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila over the progress of the clinical trials of each of the COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the pandemic.
However, Indian airlines have been permitted to operate special international flights under the Vande Bharat Mission since May this year and under the bilateral air bubble pacts since July. Under the bilateral air bubble pacts, the airlines of both countries can operate international flights with certain restrictions. India has formed such pacts with around 20 countries.