COVID-19

WHO orders airlines to run Covid vaccine-free travel

Overnight airline industry body IATA, representing 190 airlines in world including Qantas and Virgin, immediately backed the WHO call and said air travellers were not high risk groups.WHO’s Covid-19 International Health Regulations Emergency Committee has said it was now time for a “risk based approach” to Covid to open up the world.It reaffirmed an earlier brief, concluding: “Member States not require proof of Covid-19 vaccination as a mandatory condition for entry to or exit from a country; consider a risk-based approach to the facilitation of international travel by lifting measures, such as testing and/or quarantine requirements, to individual travellers who were fully vaccinated, at least two weeks prior to travelling.”It went one step further and said measures would also be lifted for those who have had previous confirmed Covid infections “and are no longer infectious as per WHO’s criteria for releasing Covid-19 patients from isolation.It added quarantine measures for international travellers should only be on a “risk-based manner” with regular review of policies “to ensure they are lifted when no longer necessary”. Health evidence is inconclusive on whether having had Covid makes one immune to having it again or more critically passing it on to someone who hasn’t.But former British Airways boss and now IATA director general Willie Walsh praised the stance and said it was common sense.“These common sense, risk-based recommendations from WHO, if followed by States, will allow for international air travel to resume while minimising the chance of importing Covid-19,” he said yesterday. “As WHO notes, and as the latest UK testing data proves, international travellers are not a high-risk group in terms of Covid-19.”That data includes 1.65 million tests on international passengers in the UK since February which showed only 1.4 per cent were Covid positive.“It’s long past time for governments to incorporate data into risk-based decision-making process for reopening borders,” Mr Walsh said today.IATA had been in talks with the Australian government, specifically the Home Affairs Department, over digital certificates to avoid quarantine measures for passengers to use to travel, when the international borders are to open expected sometime next year.Currently Australian international borders are closed except to citizens and permanent residents. Qantas has intimated it would require vaccinations for international travel as a duty of care to passengers and crew and cited customer surveys to shows it had public support.IATA is pushing its travel pass mobile app that would allow passengers to store verified certifications for Covid tests and vaccinations.Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already raised the prospect of some form of digital certificate to open up the state borders for domestic travel but international policies are a mute point since the borders remain firmly shut.In its latest communique, WHO also encouraged governments to move to form bilateral or regional travel bubbles “with the aim of facilitating the recovery of key socio-economic activities” including tourism.

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