The WTTC, formally known as the World Travel & Tourism Council is calling for rapid covid-19 testing in airports, and has proclaimed travel won’t rebound without it. Many industries are struggling as a result of the global pandemic, but few more than airlines, facing not only fear from customers, but closed borders and grim economic recession leaving travel at the bottom end of the priority list.
After the UK’s shock no notice decision to add Spain to a list of countries where a 14 day quarantine would be necessary for all visitors and returning travellers entering the UK, the WTTC issued a statement in no uncertain terms.
“WTTC is calling upon Governments around the world to begin a substantial programme of investment to ensure comprehensive testing facilities are implemented at airports, which will help prevent the spread of Covid-19 and see the return of safe travels. It is imperative that all airports, catering for international travel, implement globally recognised testing standards for both inbound and outbound passengers.
This will provide reassurance to all travellers, maintain ‘air corridors’ between countries, and remove damage and disruption caused by blunt quarantines which massively impact the recovery of the Travel & Tourism sector.”– World Travel & Tourism Council
In unison with the news, London’s Heathrow Airport called for rapid testing of all passengers on arrival, to prevent similar, sudden changes to quarantine procedures and acceptable travel destinations. The UK Government via Culture Secretary Oliver Downden quickly pushed back, saying testing is not a “silver bullet” and did not plan on assisting Heathrow.
“We are not at the point where there is a viable alternative to the 14-day quarantine.”– Oliver Dowden, UK Culture Secretary
The rebuttal from the UK Government comes in stark contrast to Germany, Austria, Dubai, Luxembourg and many other countries rapidly working to build public x private partnerships which make testing of all passengers a reality.
Germany currently offers complimentary testing for all returning Germans, and France does compulsory testing on returning residents who have visited any one of 16 travel destinations deemed high risk. The UK doesn’t currently require travelers to download any track and trace apps, provide negative covid-19 results before boarding, or submit to any testing on arrival.
Dubai requires all passengers, even those simply transiting through the airport to provide a negative covid-19 test result before boarding a flight to Dubai’s airports, and any visitors hoping to enter the United Arab Emirates must have health insurance in addition to a negative result.
Dubai launched initial rapid airport testing operations in April, which created vital learning for future successes. Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, pledges that areas to conduct testing could be made available to the UK Government within weeks, but the appetite to collaborate does not appear to be there.
For all nations, Gloria Guevara, CEO of the WTTC spoke of the lingering effects covid-19 will have, and that in fact, travel must learn to come to terms with the reality that we’ll be living with it for a long time to come…
“As part of the screening process, testing must involve temperature checks and swab tests for all arriving and departing passengers with results back within 24 hours, and only those testing positive – with or without symptoms – should be put into quarantine. Where there are apps to assist in effective Test & Trace regimes, passengers must be advised to sign up and use them.
“We are going to have to live with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future so we must do all we can to protect public health and save lives, whilst restoring consumer confidence, driving the global economic recovery, and saving the jobs of millions of people whose very livelihoods depend upon a thriving Travel & Tourism sector.”
Ultimately, the fate of travel in the covid-19 era will be determined by unified measures and agreed protocols to mitigate risks and restore traveler confidence. With knee jerk moves placing holiday in jeopardy without plans and protocols, few will ever venture out into the world again, and that means multi billion dollar economies, and over 300 million global jobs are at risk.