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As much of Europe returns to lockdown or other reinforced mobility restrictions, the tourism and airlines industries have stepped up their campaign to encourage governments to introduce more widespread passenger testing protocols.

The general view is that a combination of pre-flight and ongoing destination testing is the most effective way to help resurrect the tourism industry, at least until COVID-19 vaccines are universally available.

Describing European quarantine measures as “unsustainable”, the International Air Transport Association has joined leading aviation organisations such as Airports Council International Europe and Airlines for Europe (A4E) in lobbying the European Union to adopt a common testing protocol to replace quarantine.

Another key industry voice leading the pro-testing argument is airline marketing strategy company SimpliFlying, which has released a comprehensive white paper detailing a 10-point “Testing +” plan “to allow air travel to happen in a way which benefits economies without spreading the coronavirus”.

According to SimpliFlying, widespread testing before departure on its own (as advocated by various international organisations) isn’t enough. “As the aim needs to be to have as few infectious people flying as possible, a more comprehensive health safety regime is needed, with testing as the centrepiece.”

SimpliFlying says it believes that by implementing such a plan “the success rate of stopping COVID-positive passengers from flying can be increased from 90 per cent to 95 per cent-plus”.

The 10-point framework is aimed at placing testing at the forefront of entry regimes, complemented by other measures…

  1. Pre-travel authorisations and screening.
  2. Testing on departure for all.
  3. Testing on arrival for some (e.g. from high-risk countries).
  4. Tests to take place less than 24 hours before departure.
  5. Tests to be as quick and cheap as possible, while not sacrificing accuracy.
  6. Biosafety measures, such as enhanced sanitisation, to continue.
  7. A track and trace system to be in place for 14 days after arrival.
  8. An industry registry of approved and validated tests to be created.
  9. An outreach and communication strategy for key stakeholders to be developed to show regulators that this plan is robust and effective.
  10. A campaign to be rolled out that emphasises aviation’s commitment to local communities ahead of profits.

The white paper also lists concerns about fast antigen tests, “due to questions about their ability to detect asymptomatic cases”. 

Expanding on the ninth point, SimpliFlying notes, “There needs to be a campaign reassuring the public that the industry is serious about stopping infected people from flying. That renewed air travel will result in an economic boost, but not new COVID cases…”

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