IATA Applauds Opening Borders to Vaccinated Travelers

 - May 19, 2021, 10:59 AM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

The latest data collected by the International Air Transport Association shows that more than 20 countries have wholly or partially lifted restrictions for vaccinated travelers, reflecting what IATA called data- and evidence-driven decision making. The association supports unrestricted access to travel for vaccinated travelers and quarantine-free travel for unvaccinated individuals cleared through free-of-charge Covid testing.

IATA cited Germany as one of the latest countries to relax quarantine mandates for vaccinated travelers. Those travelers and ones who have tested negative for Covid no longer must submit to quarantine measures, except for those from certain high-risk countries.

The German government decision followed a review of scientific advice from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which concluded that vaccinated travelers no longer present a significant risk of spread of the disease and do not pose a major risk to the German population. Specifically, it said that vaccination reduces the risk of Covid-19 transmission to levels below the risk from those who receive a false negative rapid antigen test.

The implementation of the policy aligns Germany with recommendations from both the European Commission and the European Parliament, based on similar scientific advice from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC). In its interim guidance on the benefits of full vaccination, the ECDC assessed the likelihood of an infected vaccinated person transmitting the disease as “very low to low.”

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted that pre-travel testing, post-travel testing, and a seven-day self-quarantine provide “minimal additional benefit” to those who have received a 90 percent effective vaccine.

“A safe opening of borders to international travel is the goal,” said IATA director general Willie Walsh. “And scientific evidence and data such as that presented by RKI, ECDC, and U.S. CDC should be the basis for the decision-making needed to achieve that.”

According to the U.S. CDC, relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions acts as a powerful motivator for vaccination, particularly in communities where vaccine hesitancy is prevalent. Meanwhile, IATA polling indicates that 81 percent of international travelers expressed a willingness to get vaccinated to travel. Moreover, 74 percent of people in the same poll agreed that those vaccinated shouldn’t face restrictions when traveling by air.

IATA noted that the decisions of increasing numbers of countries to accept vaccinated travelers without quarantine measures add pressure for a digital “solution” to manage vaccine certificates and Covid-19 test results. Paper-based processes could lead to extremely long processing times at check-in and border control and introduce an opportunity for fraud, said the association. “Digital vaccine/test certificates, coupled with passenger apps such as IATA’s Travel Pass, will be needed to manage travel health credentials efficiently and securely in the restart,” it concluded.

“A gap is opening up between countries responding to scientific evidence and those exhibiting a lack of preparation or excessive caution in reopening borders,” said Walsh. “Countries that seize the opportunity offered by the increasing numbers of vaccinated travelers can protect their populations and reap an economic reward.”