ACI Asia-Pacific reiterates calls for harmonised COVID testing rules to restart international aviation

Changi Airport
As passenger travel recovers, scenes like this near empty Changi Airort in Singapore are becoming fewer. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Use this oneAirports Council International (ACI) Asia-Pacific has reiterated calls for globally consistent and harmonised testing protocols following the release of year-end figures showing higher than forecasted losses for the Asia-Pacific and Middle East airport sector. The Middle East has become one of the hardest-hit regions in the world with passenger declines well above 70 percent losses, more than 10 percent previously forecasted. Asia-Pacific, while benefitting from the rebound of domestic travels in key markets, closes out the year with 60 percent passenger losses, 4 percent higher than forecasted. In absolute numbers, the two regions are forecasted to lose more than 2.3 billion passengers by year-end compared to ACI’s pre-COVID-19 projections.

“The constantly-evolving impact of the pandemic has hit the Middle East region more than previously forecasted, ending the year just shy of US$10 billion revenue loss. The previously anticipated negative outlook for Asia-Pacific is largely confirmed, amounting to about US$ 29.6 billion. The results forecasted in 2020 depicts an unbearable situation for airports in the region and unsustainable for 2021,” said Stefano Baronci, director general, ACI Asia-Pacific. “The promise of quarantine-free travel corridors provided much-needed hope for the recovery of passenger numbers and revenue but, despite recent encouraging attempts, remains an illusion.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has virtually shut down international aviation. Normally bustling Changi Airport in Singapore was quiet in August. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Consistency and harmonisation in cross-border travel protocols are key to the restoration of public confidence and a sustained and effective recovery of the air transport and tourism sectors. ACI Asia-Pacific continues to urge resolute action by states working with each other and with industry to implement harmonised cross-border measures, including a risk-based approach to COVID-19 testing that can ensure safe, smooth and sustainable air transport, as well as quicken the pace of the restart of travel and tourism.

Guidance and recommendations are contained in ICAO’s Testing and Cross-border Risk Management Measures Manual, a risk-based assessment tool that can reduce quarantine measures. The manual provides clear guidance on how to limit the use of quarantine, depending on the risk tolerance established by each country and on the estimated risk of translocation of COVID-19 from one state to another.

Some airlines like Emirates are already testing passengers before departure. (PHOTO: Emirates)

“The internationally-agreed framework on testing prepared by ICAO with the assistance of the WHO provides a key recommendation that all states should follow: measures should be proportionate to the risk of COVID-19 transmission. In most cases, passengers from low- or equivalent risk countries, if tested negative as part of a multilayer risk management strategy, should not be quarantined, similarly to what is applied to the population of the destination country,” said Baronci.

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