The global representative body of the airline industry, the International Air Transport Association (Iata), has called on African and Middle Eastern (AME) governments to abandon quarantine measures for arriving air passengers. These policies were doing grave damage to those countries’ aviation and aviation-dependent sectors in particular, and to their wider economies in general.
Across the AMR region, 36 countries have imposed quarantine measures. These amounted to 40% of all quarantine measures globally. Surveys indicated that more than 80% of travellers were uninterested in travel if they faced quarantine.
“It is critical that AME governments implement alternatives to quarantine measures,” urged Iata regional VP: Africa and the Middle East Muhammad Albakri. “AME has the highest number of countries in the world with government-imposed quarantine measures on arriving passengers. The region is effectively in complete lockdown with the travel and tourism sector shuttered. This is detrimental in a region where 8.6-million people depend on aviation for their livelihoods.”
Regarding the impact of Covid-19 on African aviation, African airlines would lose $42 for every passenger they carry this year, reported Iata. During the first half of this year, East African airlines revenues were down 56% and their passenger numbers by 53% in comparison to the same period last year. Over the same period, North African airlines saw their revenues fall by 60% and passenger numbers by 58%, Southern African airlines suffered a drop in revenues of 60% and in passengers of 58%, while the respective figures for West African airlines were 60% and 58%.
For South Africa alone, the year-on-year fall in passenger numbers in June was 60%. The impact on the revenues of the country’s airlines came to $3.2-billion. The result was that 269 900 South African jobs were at risk.
Measures to reduce the risk of importing Covid-19 included discouraging people with the symptoms of the disease from travelling, pointed out Iata. To aid in this, airlines were offering flexibility to passengers who had to change their bookings because they were ill or exposed to ill people. Iata also supported health screening of passengers by means of health declarations.
Regarding risk mitigation when unknowingly infected people travelled, the association stressed the importance of applying the Takeoff guidelines developed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Contact tracing should be used as a back-up procedure. These and other measures provided a layered approach to containing the disease while allowing economies to reopen.
“Implementing a layered approach should give governments the confidence to open borders without quarantine, and passengers the confidence to fly,” said Albakri. “Air connectivity is critical to economic and sustainable development in and across AME.”