GENEVA — IATA along with Airlines for America (A4A) and 28 other U.S. and international aviation and travel and tourism stakeholder groups, are urging the U.S. government to remove the pre-departure testing requirement for fully vaccinated air travellers flying to the U.S.
The vaccinated traveller population adds no additional risks to the domestic US population, says IATA, adding that increased immunity levels, the pervasiveness of COVID-19 in all 50 U.S. states, rising vaccination rates and new therapeutics, all point to removing the testing requirement for fully vaccinated travellers.
“The experience of Omicron has made it clear that travel restrictions have little to no impact in terms of preventing its spread. Moreover, as Omicron is already broadly present across the US, fully vaccinated travellers bring no extra risk to the local population. International travellers should face no additional screening requirements than what is applied to domestic travel. In fact, at this stage of the pandemic, travel should be managed in the same way as access to shopping malls, restaurants or offices,” says Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
Walsh adds that more than 74.3 million people — meaning at least 22% of the US population — have had COVID-19, and that is almost certainly an undercount owing to asymptomatic infections and limited testing early in the pandemic. When combined with an adult population that is 74% fully vaccinated, it is clear that the U.S. is developing very high levels of population immunity, says Walsh.
IATA also notes that the EU has recommended that its member states remove COVID-19 travel restrictions for travel within the EU, and the UK has announced the removal of COVID-19 pre-departure testing for vaccinated air travellers to enter the country. The UK concluded that the cost to both passengers and airlines of the testing mandate could no longer be justified as there was no evidence the regime protected the population from COVID-19.
Recent research by Oxera and Edge Health in Italy, Finland, and the UK all support the conclusion that travel measures do little to control the spread of COVID-19 when it is already broadly present in the local population. The studies found that, if implemented at a very early stage, travel restrictions may at best delay the peak of a new wave by a few days and marginally reduce the number of cases.
Furthermore, IATA’s most recent air traveller survey showed that 62% of respondents support removing a testing requirement for those who are fully vaccinated.
“Removing the pre-departure testing requirement for fully vaccinated travellers will greatly support the recovery of travel and aviation in the U.S. and globally without increasing the spread of COVID-19 and its variants in the U.S. population. There is no use in closing the barn door after the horse has bolted,” said Walsh.