Aviation Groups Call for End to U.S. Covid Testing Requirements

 - February 3, 2022, 11:36 AM

Several aviation groups including the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airlines for America (A4A) on Thursday urged the U.S. government to remove pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated travelers. According to IATA, the vaccinated traveler population adds no risk to the domestic U.S. population given increased immunity levels, the pervasiveness of Covid-19 in all 50 states, rising vaccination rates, and new therapeutic treatments.

“The experience of Omicron has made it clear that travel restrictions have little to no impact in terms of preventing its spread,” said IATA director general Willie Walsh. “Moreover, as Omicron is already broadly present across the U.S., fully vaccinated travelers bring no extra risk to the local population. International travelers should face no additional screening requirements than what is applied to domestic travel. In fact, at this stage of the pandemic, travel should be managed in the same way as access to shopping malls, restaurants, or offices.”

IATA cites statistics showing that more than 74.3 million people—or at least 22 percent of the U.S. population—have contracted Covid-19 and that the existence of asymptomatic infections and limited testing early in the pandemic means that authorities arrived at the figure based on an undercount. “When combined with an adult population that is 74 percent fully vaccinated, it is clear that the U.S. is developing very high levels of population immunity,” said IATA in a statement.

The organizations also noted that the EU has recommended that its member states remove Covid-19 travel restrictions for travel within the EU, and the UK has announced the removal of pre-departure testing for vaccinated air travelers to enter the country. According to IATA, the UK concluded that it could no longer justify the testing given the cost to both passengers and airlines and the lack of evidence that the regime protected the population from Covid-19. 

IATA cited recent research by Oxera and Edge Health in Italy, Finland, and the UK that supports the conclusion that travel measures do little to control the spread of Covid-19 when it already broadly affected the local population. The studies found that, if implemented at an early stage, travel restrictions might at best delay the peak of a new wave by a few days and marginally reduce the number of cases. Furthermore, IATA’s most recent air traveler survey showed that 62 percent of respondents support removing a testing requirement for fully vaccinated people.

“Removing the pre-departure testing requirement for fully vaccinated travelers will greatly support the recovery of travel and aviation in the U.S. and globally without increasing the spread of Covid-19 and its variants in the U.S. population,” said Walsh. “There is no use in closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.”