Coronavirus: Call for governments to urgently adopt Covid-19 air travel guidelines, including use of face masks
Governments should urgently adopt new global air travel guidelines, such as the wearing of face masks, to restore air connectivity and ensure safe air travel safe in a world with Covid-19, an international aviation association says.
On Tuesday the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) adopted a new report and recommendations aimed at restarting the international air transport system and aligning its global recovery.
The recommendations include rapid testing (when it becomes available), passenger health declaration forms, physical distancing, health screening such as temperature checks, and the wearing of face masks by crew and passengers.
As the aviation sector slowly dusts itself off after being decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a growing call for universal guidelines to be applied across the sector to ensure consistency around ways to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
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The ICAO estimates that by the end of 2020, the Covid-19 impact on scheduled international passenger traffic could reach reductions of up to 71 per cent of seat capacity and up to 1.5 billion passengers globally.
Airlines and airports face a potential loss of revenue of up to US$314 billion (NZ$498b) and US$100b respectively, for 2020.
Recommendations in it include
* Physical distancing to the extent feasible and implementation of “adequate risk-based measures where distancing is not feasible, for example in aircraft cabins”;
* Wearing of face coverings and masks by passengers and aviation workers;
* Routine sanitation and disinfection of all areas with potential for human contact and transmission;
* Health screening, which could include pre- and post-flight self-declarations, as well as temperature screening and visual observation, “conducted by health professionals”;
* Contact tracing for passengers and aviation employees: updated contact information should be requested as part of the health self-declaration, and interaction between passengers and governments should be made directly though government portals;
* Passenger health declaration forms, including self-declarations in line with the recommendations of relevant health authorities. Electronic tools should be encouraged to avoid paper;
* Testing: if and when real-time, rapid and reliable testing becomes available.
The New Zealand Airline Pilots Association last month said it wanted face masks to be compulsory for air passengers to reduce the need for people to be separated on planes.
Air New Zealand has been undertaking physical distancing on some but not all flights.
It has no official requirements for the wearing of face masks, following advice of the Ministry of Health.
On Thursday New Zealand director of health Ashley Bloomfield said the advice around face masks for air travel was that they were neither recommended nor required but not discouraged.
Across the ditch Australian carrier Qantas said it would provide masks for passengers but not undertake social distancing in the cabin as it was not practical.
The Takeoff report supplements an ICAO report produced by the Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) through consultation with countries and important advice from the World Health Organisation and key aviation industry groups such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Airports Council International.
The CART’s report contains a series of recommendations focused around objectives for public health, aviation safety and security, and aviation economic recovery.
CART chairperson ambassador Philippe Bertoux said the guidelines were intended to inform, align and progress the national, regional, and industry-specific Covid-19 recovery roadmaps, but not to replace them.
Iata said the guidelines were "an authoritative and comprehensive framework of risk-based temporary measures for air transport operations during the Covid-19 crisis".
Iata chief executive and director general Alexandre de Juniac said it urged governments to quickly implement the ICAO's guidelines.
“The universal implementation of global standards has made aviation safe. A similar approach is critical in this crisis so that we can safely restore air connectivity as borders and economies re-open."
Airlines strongly supported it, de Juniac said.
"Now we are counting on governments to implement the recommendations quickly, because the world wants to travel again and needs airlines to play a key role in the economic recovery.
"And we must do this with global harmonization and mutual recognition of efforts to earn the confidence of travellers and air transport workers."
Independent aviation analyst Brendan Sobie said there was a lack of "harmonisation" in the sector.
"In many countries airlines are able to sell the middle seat but airlines are requiring face masks for all passengers," Sobie said.
"There are some countries that are requiring both face masks and that passengers don't sit next to each other unless they are in the same family."
As the industry restarted it was important for the industry to agree on uniform standards, he said.
Source : Stuff.co.nz