GENEVA, 25 November 2020: The International Air Transport
Association (IATA) welcomes the publication of the Manual on Testing and Cross
Border Risk Management Measures by the International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO).

The manual provides governments with a risk-based assessment
tool for a testing programme that could alleviate quarantine requirements.

It is a critical output produced by the ICAO Collaborative
Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil
Aviation. Known as CAPSCA it brings together the expertise of states, public
health authorities (the World Health Organization, Centres for Disease Control
and Prevention, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) and
industry experts such as IATA, Airports Council International and International
Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations.

This encouraging progress follows recent comments from the
WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee Chair, Dr Didier
Houssin, who foresees a role for testing as a means of reopening international
travel without quarantine measures.

“Clearly, the use of the tests is certainly now
supposed to have a much larger place compared to quarantine.”

“Momentum is building in support of our call for
systematic testing to safely reopen borders without quarantine measures. ICAO,
working with health authorities and industry, has produced a high-level
framework. Health authorities are beginning to explore how testing could
supersede quarantine to stop the cross-border spread of the virus. Encouraging
results from testing pilot programs should now give states the confidence to
move forward quickly,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director-general
and CEO.

Testing efficacy

Pilot programs for COVID-19 testing of travellers are beginning to
produce encouraging results proving their efficacy.

  • A study on arriving passengers in Toronto tested passengers three times: on arrival, at day seven and at day 14. Just 1% of passengers tested positive over that period, with 70% being detected with the first test. In other words, the study’s results could indicate the potential for about 60 out of every 20,000 travellers to go undetected on arrival, which is significantly lower than the underlying prevalence in Canada.
  • A pre-departure testing program for the Milan/Linate-Rome/Fiumicino route detected about 0.8% of passengers with Covid-19. As this level of incidence is considerably higher than the reported prevalence of Covid-19 in Italy at the time, it would appear that not only was testing highly effective in identifying infected travellers but that systematic testing is the best way to detect asymptomatic cases and to break chains of transmission.
  • A soon to be published European study is even more optimistic. It models scenarios for a highly effective testing mechanism. In a low prevalence scenario, there is the potential to see the number of undetected positive cases as few as five per 20,000 travellers, increasing to 25 in high prevalence situations. These levels of incidence are still much lower than the underlying prevalence of Covid-19 in Europe.
  • IATA modelled the testing results to quantify the risk that would remain if systematic pre-departure testing were implemented. Assuming that testing identifies 75% of travellers correctly who have Covid-19 (the effectiveness of the test) from a source population with a prevalence of 0.8% of the population (e.g., similar to Chile), the risk is that 0.06% of passengers would have the disease and go undetected. That would mean 12 undetected positive cases for every 20,000 arriving passengers.

Practicalities

Testing is supported by travellers. An IATA survey revealed that 83%
of people would not travel if it required quarantine. It also showed that some
88% of travellers would be willing to be tested if it enabled travel. The same
survey also revealed that 65% believe that quarantine should not be necessary
if someone tests negative for COVID-19. “Public opinion supports COVID-19
testing. They see it as a far better option compared to quarantine which kills
travel. And they feel comfortable that if you are tested and found negative,
you don’t need to quarantine,” said de Juniac.

Global standards are needed to transform the many testing pilots and
“bubbles” into a global re-start of international flying. To support this IATA
is developing:

  • A practical implementation guide for the Manual on Testing and Cross Border
    Risk Management Measures
  • The IATA
    Travel Pass to manage COVID-19 test certifications, one of several solutions in
    development to help manage testing certifications. IATA welcomes the evolution
    of a competitive market for these solutions that should be cost-effective,
    global, accurate and interoperable.

Speed

IATA urges quick action by governments working with industry to
implement a globally harmonized and systematic approach to Covid-19 testing in
the travel process.

Travel essentially remains in lockdown. Each day that this situation
is prolonged puts more jobs at risk and makes the road to recovery that much
more difficult.

Implementation of a globally harmonized systematic testing regime for
international travel would complement measures already well established to keep
travellers safe. In June, ICAO published Take-off: Guidance for Air Travel
through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis
which calls on governments to implement a
multi-layered approach to sanitary measures throughout the travel process.
Mask-wearing is especially key to the Take-off requirements with a strong
consensus among recently published studies of air travel and COVID-19 pointing
toward the very low risk of inflight transmission (Harvard, TRANSCOM).

View the presentation on Testing
and Safely Reopening Borders