Data-driven decisions key to reopening borders, says IATA

Working alongside Boeing and Airbus, all three organisations believe new strategies without quarantine measures should be implemented

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is urging governments to utilise all available data when making decisions regarding the reopening of borders to global travel.

According to the organisation, strategies without quarantine measures can enable travel to resume whilst maintaining a low Coronavirus transmission rate.

“Data can and should drive policies on restarting global travel that manage Covid-19 risks to protect populations, revive livelihoods and boost economies,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.

Multiple studies have concluded that vaccinations protect travellers from serious illness. The Robert Koch Institute found that immunised travellers are no longer significant in the spread of the virus, posing no major threat.

London City Airport
Photo London City Airport

This is also supported by the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), as they issued a statement on the topic saying: “The likelihood of an infected vaccinated person transmitting the disease is currently assessed to be very low to low.”

Walsh continues, saying that quarantine measures “impede the freedom of movement, discourage international travel and destroy employment in the travel and tourism sector”.

“We now have more than a year of global data that can help governments make more targeted decisions on international travel. This can keep the risk of importing Covid-19 cases low—including variants of concern—while restarting international travel with minimal infringement on the ability to live normal work and social lives.”

IATA believe that there could be an unfair barrier for unvaccinated travellers if the quarantine measure is still in place.

Working alongside the trade body, Airbus created a model that focusses on the risks of an entire journey. More than 50 variables were considered, including testing strategies, traffic statistics and flight length.

Results from the research included information from sources such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and were then cross referenced against data collected from previous travel observations.

One group of findings concluded that those travelling between Latin America and the Caribbean (282 cases per 100,000) to Canada (95 cases per 100,000) resulted in around one case in every 100,000 passengers. If a single PCR test is taken before departure, that risk lowers below one.

Boeing also partnered with the organisation to determine the efficiency of testing strategies. It was established that screening protocols are just as effective as a 14-sday isolation period, this method also lowers the risk to the required destination and is the most beneficial solution for travel.

The sector is currently encouraging the G7 to work together and utilise the collected data to help with the recovery effort.

“There is no completely risk-free protocol. Vaccination will play a big role. And the data we have tells us that screening and testing protocols can make travel safely accessible for all,” Walsh concludes.