FRANKFURT – What it takes to make people fly again? International air traffic dropped 92% this year for travelers worried about catching the travel ban COVID-19 and the government and quarantine rules make planning difficult. One thing that could help low trust is to have a rapid viral test of all passengers prior to departure.
Scattering experiments on improving safety are underway around the world, and the United Nations organization leading the talks on the guidelines set. There is a lot at stake. With no end in sight to the pandemic, the total stop near the international trip will hamper the economy as they try to bounce back from the recession and return to the normal level of business activity. Millions of jobs – in flight, airport and travel-related businesses such as hotels and restaurants – are affected.
Here’s a look at some of the key issues.
WHY FOCUS ON TESTING?
One of the main factors keeping people from taking long-haul flights is afraid they will be sitting next to someone with COVID-19, according to a survey by the International Air Transport Association. While fly helped carry the virus worldwide first, our own aircraft so far have not proven super-spreader conference locations and business means a meatpacking plant has.
Most people are also reluctant to fly to quarantine restricting their activities until two weeks after arrival. Quarantine itself was not perfect in terms of stopping the spread of the virus, such as in some cases they are not strict.
“Testing of all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that would put millions of people back to work, “said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA Director General and CEO.
HOW WILL TEST WORK?
Initial experiments focus on testing the passengers prior to departure, either at the airport or remotely. Information about the test results can be documented via a smartphone app. new tests can provide results in less than one hour.
WHAT DO THE HEALTH AUTHORITIES SAY?
They are open to the idea but still assessing how effective it will be.
The US Centers for Disease Control notes that the testing of the technology, capacity and improved access to testing. He added that “efforts are currently underway internationally to assess risk reduction, testing to determine what decent regime for air travel may look like, and getting some level of agreement on standards for a more harmonized approach to test globally in air transport.”
WHO’S GOING TO DECIDE THIS?
IATA calls for rapid testing, accurate and scalable for all passengers. After airline executives have requested assistance from the European Union and the White House task force COVID-19, this problem seems to have moved to the UN, the International Civil Aviation Organization based in Montreal.
ICAO is working on guidelines based on scientific advice that countries can use to build the testing regime. This issue is on the agenda for the October 29 meeting, but that’s no guarantee that the guidelines would be approved.
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WHAT TRIALS ARE UNDER WAY?
Various forms of testing have been tried for weeks in different places. What airlines want is a large-scale international approach.
For example, China requires a time-consuming test negative reaction polymerase chain before departure. At the international airport of Frankfurt, diagnostic Centogene company has offered a test for that non-symptom for 59 euros ($ 69) for the results within 12 hours and 139 euros for six hours. A doctor’s certificate – for 25 euros each other – can help avoid the quarantine restrictions.
The Commons Project Foundation and the Swiss-based World Economic Forum holds this month’s trial CommonPass, digital health pass that allows travelers to secure compliance with the requirements document COVID-19 test via a QR code on their smartphone or on paper. The idea is to get around the problems posed by the print test results, which may be from a foreign laboratory or in a language they check they do not know.
Cathay Pacific has been tested CommonPass with volunteers in Hong Kong-Singapore flights and United Airlines will test between London Heathrow and Newark Liberty International. CDC Martin S. Cetron, head of global migration and quarantine division, said it is “want to learn” from the ordeal and that CommonPass “could be one of many potential tools.” CommonPass can be adopted by each country, without waiting for international agreements.
WHAT’S THE HOLDUP?
There are many moving parts to any testing regime. First, the test to be accurate, fast and cheap enough to deploy on a large scale. Governments must agree to accept the results; while the government was represented in the ICAO, organizational guidelines will not be mandatory. There must be a way of certification of the results, while at the same time protecting the privacy of medical information of passengers, and procedures to deal with those who test positive.
Scientists warn there are concerns about the accuracy of a few quick tests. People can test negative for a few days after infection. People can be contagious before they show symptoms, and these people can also test negative.
IS TESTING THE ONLY SOLUTION?
The International Air Transport Association advocates a layered approach. In addition to testing, that means: social distancing at the airport, touchless check-in, wearing masks in flight, and limiting passenger movement in the cabin.
In a survey published in May, consulting firm McKinsey asked 40 corporate travel planners what would give them the confidence to book travel. Seventy-five per cent said they would want a vaccine, while 39% said testing. McKinsey said business travel spending exceeded $1.4 trillion in 2018, or 21% of the global travel and hospitality sector. Business travellers drive 55% to 75% of the profit at top airlines – even though they make up less than 10% of passengers.
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