International airline body IATA is calling for all departing air passengers to be tested for coronavirus so existing quarantine measures can be scrapped.
Speaking at an online briefing, IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac said that there was no alternative solution that was ‘less challenging or more effective’.
At the moment, coronavirus test results take several hours and are expensive, but de Juniac claimed fast-acting antigen tests costing from $7 each were expected to be available ‘within weeks’.
“Testing technology is rapidly developing. Roche and Abbott, for example have tests that meet most criteria but need medical personnel to administer them. The speed at which testing capabilities are advancing tells us that we will have deployable options in the coming weeks,” he said.
“And by signaling now that this is the industry’s preferred option, we are sending a strong message to the market that should accelerate development and earmark aviation as a big customer.”
Such tests would ‘boost passenger confidence’ that everyone on the aircraft has been tested, added de Juniac.
He said IATA would work with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and with health authorities to implement this solution as soon as possible.
International travel is down 92% year-on-year, according to IATA. “Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that will put millions of people back to work,” added de Juniac.
“By calling for the establishment of a global approach to COVID-19 testing for all passengers before departure we are sending a clear signal of aviation’s needs. In the meantime, we are gaining practical knowledge from the testing programs that already exist as part of the various travel bubble or travel corridor initiatives around the world.
“We must continue with these valuable programs which move us in the right direction by building testing experience, facilitating essential travel and demonstrating testing effectiveness.”
De Juniac’s comments came as former IAG CEO Willie Walsh said in an interview with Eurocontrol that the aviation industry will shrink due to the impact of coronavirus, and he warned that the winter will be ‘very, very tough’.