LONDON – The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)-led CART task force is due to recommend further COVID-19 testing in airports. Reuters reported that the recommendations will follow next month following a meeting that was conducted yesterday.

Airlines and airports have been asking the task force to recommend countries to accept a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test from passengers within 48 hours of travel. This is so then passengers will not have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving into the country they are either visiting or coming back from.

ICAO commented on this article by Reuters.

“ICAO is aware of significantly premature speculation regarding what the participating States may agree. Information on this topic will be available once any agreement is reached.”

Photo: TripSaavy

A Hopeful Move to Restore Demand?

With that argument in mind, if the recommendation is made but then subsequently followed, it could instigate a significant increase in travel demand. This is because, under current global restrictions, many consumers cannot afford to self-isolate for 14 days and potentially not go into work as a result.

An example of this is in Australia, which currently has some of the world’s strictest travel restrictions as a result of the pandemic. This has resulted in the likes of Qatar Airways (QR) suspending all bookings for the Australian market.

Photo: Soumya Ranjan

Global Governance-based Response Not Enough?

At the present time, most states are looking at options like bilateral agreements which could allow traveller to move between countries without the use of quarantining or PCR testing.

The European Commission has proposed what is known as “a common traffic light system” for the member states in order to coordinate certain restriction policies.

Another plan was suggested by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in a similar manner which would allow consumers from “low-risk” countries to avoid quarantine altogether with negative PCRs.

Suggestions from the WTTC is very similar to what airlines and airports have been pushing to the CART task force, meaning that individual states may be inflating the situation further than what it needs to be.

IATA already urged governments to implement ICAO’s COVID-19 guidelines. Photo: ICAO.

Still Heavy Losses On The Way

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), there will be a 55% decline in air traffic for this year. Back in June, IATA said that industry losses would amount to $84bn, offering a huge blow to the sector.

The body has been as consistent as ICAO so far, through seeking quarantine alternatives to urging those in Europe to ease restrictions. The chief doctor of the organization even stated that the airline industry cannot afford to wait for a vaccine, highlighting the even stronger volatility in the market.

PCR Testing. Photo: Wiki Commons

What’s Next?

The next steps for airlines and airports is to first wait for the official recommendations to be released. It is then down to the individual governments across the world to either keep the current position on restrictions or alternatively make the changes in aid of the aviation sector.

With countries such as the UK and others struggling to keep up the capacity to meet demands for COVID-19 testing, this may prove to be more difficult than anticipated. In the meantime, all we can do is sit back uncomfortably, and wait to see how this pandemic will pan out going into the Winter.

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