IATA, the International Air Transport Association, today condemned quarantine as a means of dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the group suggested a layered approach to mitigate the possibility of virus transmission during flights as a countermeasure. The move comes just days after it was revealed that 26 passengers tested positive for COVID-19 on a recent Emirates flight to Hong Kong.

Airlines around the world are trying to work out the new normal following aviation’s worst crisis to date. Some countries, such as Dubai, are mandating that each arrival must undergo a PCR test for COVID-19. Meanwhile, others such as the United Kingdom will make almost everybody quarantine for 14 days regardless of whether they test negative for the virus.

A layered approach

IATA has suggested that governments take a layered approach to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The group suggests reducing the risk of imported cases from travelers. Firstly, IATA makes it clear that passengers should not board a flight if they are symptomatic. Airlines can help to ensure that passengers aren’t pressured into traveling while unwell by implementing rebooking options that are as flexible as possible.

The group is also advocating for digital health screening by governments. While it acknowledges that temperature checks my not be 100% effective, 80% of travelers say that this makes them feel safer.

Finally, the group said that passengers originating in high-risk countries should undergo COVID-19 tests. The group suggests tests before arrival at the departure airport. This has the benefit that those with COVID don’t even make it onto the plane. That way, there is no possibility to spread the virus on the flight, and they will not need to quarantine on arrival.

Quarantine stops people from traveling

IATA also emphasized that forced quarantines will stop people from traveling. After all, why would you fly to a business meeting or holiday if you had to spend 14 days inside at the other end?

This is currently what is happening in the United Kingdom. British airlines claim that it is stifling their recovery, and have even launched legal action against quarantine periods. IATA noted that quarantines were not much different from countries outright banning arrivals.

Indeed, in a survey by the group, 83% of passengers said that they wouldn’t even think of traveling if there was a chance of being quarantined. Additionally, arrivals to countries with quarantines dropped by 90%, which was similar to those that banned arrivals.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said,

“Imposing quarantine measures on arriving travelers keeps countries in isolation and the travel and tourism sector in lockdown… Quarantine measures may play a role in keeping people safe, but they will also keep many unemployed.”