Airlines association IATA has urged countries not to implement “knee-jerk” travel rules for passengers from China, as the EU is set to discuss a possible joint policy on new Covid-19 restrictions.
Several EU nations, including Italy, France and Spain, have already announced new testing and other requirements for passengers arriving from China. The UK is also introducing new rules for Chinese arrivals from 5 January.
But IATA director general Willie Walsh said: “It is extremely disappointing to see this knee-jerk reinstatement of measures that have proven ineffective over the last three years.
“Research undertaken around the arrival of the Omicron variant concluded that putting barriers in the way of travel made no difference to the peak spread of infections. At most, restrictions delayed that peak by a few days. If a new variant emerges in any part of the world, the same situation would be expected.”
Walsh urged governments to “listen to the advice of experts”, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), which advise against the implementation of travel restrictions.
“We have the tools to manage Covid-19 without resorting to ineffective measures that cut off international connectivity, damage economies and destroy jobs,” added Walsh. “Governments must base their decisions on ‘science facts’ rather than ‘science politics’.”
Walsh's comments were also echoed by Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, who called the implementation of new Covid travel restrictions a “sucker punch to the entire travel industry”.
The Swedish government, which has just taken over presidency of the EU for the next six months, has called a crisis response meeting on Wednesday (4 January) to discuss implementing possible Covid-19 restrictions on travellers from China across all 27 member states.