Governments must adopt 'risk-based approach' to help boost air travel industry: IATA CEO
Canadian airlines are doing enough to ward off COVID-19 without needing to resort to “blanket quarantine measures,” according to the industry's largest trade group.
In an interview with BNN Bloomberg on Tuesday, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on the federal government to relax its restrictions on passenger testing and to reopen its skies to international travel.
“We think it goes too far,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA director general and chief executive officer, said of Canada’s mandated 14-day quarantine and the continued closure of its border with the United States. “We fully understand the need for protection, but we think that if you test the passengers arriving into Canada – so, you fly people who have tested negatively, who are not infected – you reduce the risk of transmission.”
“[Lifting quarantine measures] is something that the Canadian government should understand … I have to say that it’s not an easy conversation, but I hope we will make progress with all governments and particularly with the Canadians. I’m sure they will adopt a practical and pragmatic approach, based on a risk-based system to control the pandemic.”
However, de Juniac added that IATA is still “waiting for a reaction from the Canadian government,” as far as that conversation is concerned.
In a Monday release, IATA highlighted recent initiatives by Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. as positive steps. The former partnered with McMaster University on a voluntary study testing international passengers for COVID-19 arriving at Toronto Pearson Airport, and the latter collected COVID-19 data from select flights out of Vancouver as part of a pilot program.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, opened the possibility for testing international travellers upon arrival at Canadian airports to potentially mitigate the need for extended quarantines on Aug. 28. However, she did not offer a timeline on how such protocols could be implemented.
Tam’s comments came the same day the government extended its existing international travel restrictions until the end of September.
IATA said in a release that revenue for airlines operating in or through Canada could fall by $22.6 billion year-over-year, putting more than 400,000 Canadian jobs at risk.
Monday’s statement mirrors comments de Juniac made during a BNN Bloomberg interview last week.
“The longer the border closure lasts or travel restrictions are in place, the worse it is for the economy — in Canada and the rest of the world,” he said.