The head of the global airline body, International Air Transport Association (IATA), has urged governments to listen to health advice and not impose “knee-jerk” COVID-19 testing measures on China.
The director general of IATA Willie Walsh said countries, including Australia, choosing to impose testing restrictions on Chinese travellers was “extremely disappointing,” especially when the virus is already “widely circulating” within their borders.
“It is extremely disappointing to see this knee-jerk reinstatement of measures that have proven ineffective over the last three years,” Walsh said in a statement on Wednesday.
The IATA represents 290 of the world’s airlines including Qantas and Virgin Australia, and Walsh said research done on the Omicron variant of COVID-19 had concluded that “putting barriers in the way of travel made no difference to the peak of infections.”
“That’s why governments should listen to the advice of experts, including the World Health Organisation, that advice against travel restrictions…
“Governments must base their decisions on ‘science facts’ rather than ‘science politics’,” Walsh continued.
Earlier this year, the IATA warned that a global recession would be unavoidable if China did not return to international flying imminently.
The testing mandate has so far been imposed on all international arrivals from China travelling to Australia, the US, the UK, France, India, Canada, Japan, Italy, Spain, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, Morocco, Israel and Qatar.
The onus will be on airlines to oversee the testing mandate, but many have not announced when they will return to Chinese airspace, with scheduled flights into China over the next three months increasing by less than 3 per cent in the days after China announced its loosened restrictions last week.
New Zealand announced on Wednesday evening it would not follow some of its biggest allies in imposing the test mandate following a public health risk assessment overseen by the country’s COVID-19 minister Ayesha Verrall.
“There is minimal public health risk to New Zealand,” Verrall said in a statement.
New Zealand will trial waste-water on international flights and ask some travellers from China to do voluntary tests, flagging the country’s concern China has not disclosed enough information about the virus’s transmission within the country.
The move positions Air New-Zealand to become the dominant carrier to and from the trans-Tasman region. Air New-Zealand is the only airline in the region which has resumed passenger services to China since the onset of COVID-19, with two return services to Shanghai per week.
Qantas has not given any indication as to when passenger services will resume to Australia’s biggest trading partner but said it regularly reviews its schedule. It continues to offer cargo services to China and received confirmation from the federal government earlier this week that air crew are not subject to the testing restriction.
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Source: Thanks smh.com