A hygiene technician at London’s Heathrow Airport. (Heathrow Airports Limited photo)

ACI Calls for Governments to Test Not Quarantine

Airports Council International (ACI) World has called on governments to follow a robust and consistent protocol for testing which should be implemented only when necessary and as an alternative to broad-brush requirements for quarantine. 

The announcement comes as the U.K. adds more countries to its quarantine list, including closest neighbor France. This means anyone arriving from France, including day-trippers, will need to self-isolate at home for 14 days upon return. The U.K. announcement was met with panic from British citizens already in France who rushed to get home before the quarantine came into effect on Saturday August 15. Others who have not yet traveled are canceling their vacation plans. A French government official has tweeted that France will respond with “reciprocal measures” but there has been no official announcement yet.

ACI will request that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) develops recommendations for countries which should be risk based and informed by scientific and health experts. ACI says the measures should then only be applied to passengers between countries where there is significant risk, and only for as long as is necessary to ensure public health and passenger confidence.

The impact of the current crisis has been devastating to the aviation industry and ACI believes it requires urgent action by governments to align risk-based, practical measures to allow the aviation industry to restart in a coordinated manner, while providing reassurance to travelers.

“Unilateral national measures, especially a quarantine requirement, is damaging to both the industry and passenger confidence,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said. “Unnecessary quarantine measures are particularly harmful to passenger confidence as international air travelers have no assurance that, if they make flight arrangements, they will be able to return to their place of departure to continue their daily lives. Harmonized measures and a risk based approach that relies on scientific evidence will help to restore traveler confidence and support the economic recovery of the aviation ecosystem.

“The imposition of such restrictions fails to take into account other options such as testing. It is time to resume international air transport in a safe and efficient manner, where people and goods can travel freely without increasing the risk of infection or the fear of re-imposed and unnecessary quarantine.”

ACI believes risk-based and proportionate measures should make use of available mitigation measures, while taking into account the need for economic recovery. Rather than impose quarantine, ACI wants governments to implement effective testing protocols before and after travel as a means to mitigate risk, recognize properly issued health certificates, and inform the public in close cooperation with the travel and tourism industries.

“A risk-based approach would support the concept of travel bubbles, with low risk countries requiring no testing or quarantine for travel,” Luis Felipe de Oliveira said. “Medium risk locations might require testing only, with mutual acceptance of test results and arrivals from high risk locations might require a combination of testing and a short quarantine to enable the verification of results.”

Read the announcement at ACI

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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