ACI Europe supports WHO’s warning against blanket travel bans

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In its latest statement regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, ACI Europe has supported the World Health Organization’s warning against blanket travel bans, calling instead for wider access to vaccines.

Specifically, in its updated Covid-19 Travel Advice released November 30, 2021, WHO stated that ‘countries should continue to apply an evidence-informed and risk-based approach when implementing travel measures’. The organization also stated that ‘blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods’.

ACI Europe pointed to the dramatic impact that travel bans and other extreme travel restrictions like quarantines have on its member airports. WHO’s updated advice came as ACI Europe welcomed the European Commission’s new travel regime proposals issued last week, which emphasize a traveler’s health status rather than their country of departure.

Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe, said, “We know beyond any doubt from the experience gained over these past 20 months that blanket travel bans and quarantines are not effective in preventing the spread of new variants. While they have no impact on the epidemiological situation, they do have dramatic consequences for livelihoods. We urge all countries to follow the WHO advice and make sure they follow evidence-informed and risk-based approaches when reviewing their travel regimes as part of precautionary measures in relation to the Omicron variant. In particular, targeted pre-departure testing should be preferred over travel bans and quarantines. Effective coordination and alignment at EU level involving all EEA countries, Switzerland and also the UK is a must.”

In the place of these bans, ACI Europe highlighted the need to tackle vaccination inequality to reduce the ‘rebound’ effect of the Covid-19 Omicron variant. The council emphasized the urgency of creating a wider vaccination rollout not just in Europe but globally.

Jankovec added, “It would be difficult not to link the emergence and spread of the Omicron variant with the current situation of global vaccination inequity. This painfully proves the point that ‘nobody is safe until everybody is safe’, as repeatedly said by the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. But that means the EU and other European countries must do much more to ensure that COVAX [the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access organization]gets vaccines swiftly to low-income countries. This could also potentially require the EU to align with the US with a view to waiving patents and other intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. Securing wider and fairer access to vaccination and therapeutics across the world is an absolute prerequisite to effectively mitigate the risk of other variants of concern emerging. The aviation, travel and tourism sectors are the most directly exposed to rebounds in the Covid-19 pandemic. We just can’t go on like that.”

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