European agency advises against systematic COVID-19 tests for air travel and calls for harmonization

“Member States should always admit their own nationals and citizens of the European Union and their family members residing on their territory, and should facilitate rapid transit through their territories.”

Forcing air travelers into quarantine “is not recommended” as it is not an “effective public health measure”, the EU health agency said on Wednesday. Furthermore, it is considered that systematic tests are not necessary.

The news guidelines of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), stressed that “it is estimated that the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in travelers is likely to be lower than the prevalence in the general population or among contacts of confirmed cases “.

According to the guidelines, the prevalence of COVID-19 among travelers is believed to be less than 1%.

“Available data does not support quarantine and traveler testing as an effective public health measure that will substantially reduce overall transmission in the general population.

“In the current epidemiological situation, quarantine and routine testing for SARS-CoV-2 air travelers is not recommended,” he added.

The joint report argued that travelers should not be treated “as a high-risk population” unless they had been known to have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and therefore should undergo the same rules as the local population.

“Abolish the quarantine”

Europe’s Airports Council International (ACI), an aviation industry association, has welcomed the report and urged member states “to immediately abolish quarantine measures and other travel restrictions.”

In a statement, they claimed that the COVID-19 quarantine and other travel restrictions have resulted in “unprecedented limitations on freedom of movement and the freedom to provide services” – European passenger air traffic was reduced by 91 % in the second quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2019.

The body said a “more harmonized and coordinated approach” is needed at the European level to “increase clarity and predictability” for travelers and boost the sector.

ACI Europe, on the other hand, supports rapid tests.

EU approach is key

The guidelines for the aviation industry were published on the same day that the European Commission released its strategy “Staying safe from COVID-19 during the winter”.

Brussels stressed that “a coordinated approach at the EU level is key” to avoid another outbreak of the deadly pandemic during the holiday period.

On the issue of travel, which is expected to increase throughout the region in the run-up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the Commission said quarantine requirements “may take place when the epidemiological situation in the region of origin is worse than the destination. “

The EU executive body has been calling for a harmonized approach for months, but member states, for the most part, have implemented their own travel restrictions for people coming from within or outside the bloc.

In France, where ski resorts will not be able to operate ski lifts during the holiday season, President Emmanuel Macron has warned that “restrictive and dissuasive measures” will be imposed to prevent people from going to neighboring countries to ski.

The comment has been poorly received in Switzerland and Austria, which allow their ski resorts to run during the end of the year holidays and therefore hoped to welcome French customers.