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Airlines, airports push for Covid-19 tests to avoid quarantine: Report

MONTREAL/SYDNEY: Airlines and airports will ask a United Nations-led task force meeting to recommend countries accept a negative Covid-19 test within 48 hours of travel as an alternative to quarantines that have decimated demand for travel, according to a document seen by Reuters.

The industry wants the task force to make the recommendation for passengers travelling from countries with high Covid-19 infection rates at a meeting scheduled yesterday to review guidelines for international travel amid the pandemic.

"A test prior to departure could reduce the risk of importation by up to 90 per cent, enabling air travel to be opened up between a large number of countries without a quarantine requirement," said the proposal from Airports Council International (ACI) and airline trade group International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The push for testing comes as the industry's hopes for a recovery were dealt a blow last week when Britain re-introduced quarantines on travellers from France and the Netherlands.

Airlines are forecasting a 55 per cent decline in this year's air traffic, according to IATA, which reported 85 per cent of surveyed travellers expressed concerns about quarantine.

PCR TESTS

"We don't support across-the-board mandatory testing," IATA medical adviser Dr David Powell said.

"But if there are situations where there is a higher risk in the country of origin and it can avoid the need for quarantine, then we certainly support that and advocate for that concept."

The proposal calls for the use of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests conducted outside of airports.

The task force did not raise testing as an alternative to quarantines in May when it recommended a uniform approach towards reviving flights, but it could do so after the meeting.

Dr Powell said the 48-hour period recommended by IATA and ACI was up for discussion and said it could make sense for some to take a second test upon arrival at their destination. - REUTERS

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