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‘Don’t discriminate against unvaccinated travellers’ plea

January 14, 2021 Headline News No Comments

The line between promoting tourism and protecting public health is wavering, with a plea by one of the world’s biggest travel and tourism organisations “not to discriminate against those who wish to travel but have not been vaccinated” and the introduction by the US of bold new Covid-19 air travel regulations.

The London-based World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has called for “the complete removal of unnecessary quarantines”. It urges special tolerance for travellers who have not been vaccinated – even though Covid-19 is raging in Britain and hospitals there are likely to be overwhelmed by coronavirus patients within weeks.

The US confirmed yesterday that it will require all international air passengers entering the country to have tested negative for the Covid-19 coronavirus, starting from 26 January.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlined a broad expansion of pre-flight testing that the airline industry hopes will replace quarantine, helping to revive air travel.

Under the new rules, international passengers must test negative for Covid-19, up to three days before their flight to the US. They must also provide written documentation of their results or prove to the airline they’ve already recovered from the virus.

WTTC president and chief executive, Gloria Guevara, said: “WTTC wholeheartedly supports the testing on departure of all travellers to ensure passengers can prove they are Covid-19 free and thus avoid the spread.

“It will take a significant amount of time to vaccinate the global population, particularly those in less advanced countries, or in different age groups, therefore we should not discriminate against those who wish to travel but have not been vaccinated.

“Only a tiny percentage of people around the world have so far received the vaccine, whereas there are vast numbers who have not, but who could be tested, show a negative result, and travel safely.

“The common-sense approach is to allow the free movement of people who can prove a negative test result, rather than reserve travelling or jobs for a small minority who have been vaccinated.

“Furthermore, the most vulnerable groups should be prioritised, a blanket vaccination requirement would simply discriminate against non-vulnerable groups, such as Generation X, Z and Millennials, who should be able to travel with proof of a negative Covid test.

“WTTC has long been calling for an internationally recognised rapid and cost-effective testing regime at departure points worldwide. This would avoid exporting the virus and aid the restoration of international travel.”

Most governments and airlines, including Qantas and the Australian government, put public safety first. Australia has just tightened its flight requirements, making Covid-19 tests before international flights obligatory. Passengers must wear masks throughout their flights – and they still must do two weeks quarantine on arrival and be tested again at the end of it. Proof of a negative Covid test before travel is not considered enough on its own.

Just yesterday, Victoria’s Covid-19 response commander, Jeroen Weimar, said a total of 11 airline crew members had tested positive out of 1600 tested while in transit in Victoria. This makes the airline workforce one of the highest transmission risks.

In contrast, the WTTC pushed last month for an easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Guevara said: “WTTC supports measures designed to curb Covid-19 and protect public health but calls for the complete removal of unnecessary quarantines.

“Requiring inbound travellers and holidaymakers to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 pre-departure test should ensure safe travel. This will be critical to encourage essential bookings for future flights and holidays.

“However, there is still uncertainty around the type of tests which will be accepted upon arrival, and they must be made widely accessible and affordable for all.

“But unlike many other countries where the proof of a negative test has replaced quarantines, to further insist all arriving travellers must isolate for 10 days or undergo a further test five days later is an unnecessary precaution. It will only stifle travel, putting yet more pressure on the embattled Travel & Tourism sector.

“Continuing with these damaging quarantines and added unnecessary restrictions will impact forward bookings which will be vital to revive international air travel, bring back Travel & Tourism sector jobs and resuscitate the global economy, while also protecting public health.

“WTTC has long called for an internationally recognised rapid and cost-effective testing regime upon departure at airports worldwide. This would avoid exporting the virus, especially by departing outbound passengers, and aid the restoration of international travel.”

Any suggestion that Australia should release arriving international passengers into the community without quarantine would be fiercely resisted by the Australian government, and by many other people.

Written by Peter Needham

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