Airports and airlines are reflexively pushing the EU for pre-flight COVID testing

Airlines and airports have criticized EU recommendations for passengers traveling from China to present a negative COVID-19 test.

In a joint statement, the coalition of Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, IATA and Airlines for Europe called the decision a “knee-jerk reaction”.

China plans to ease COVID-related restrictions from Sunday, and the EU has agreed to “strongly encourage” a requirement for passengers traveling from the country to show a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding.

Officials also recommended that passengers on flights in and out of the country wear medical masks or respirators.

A number of bloc countries, including Sweden and Germany, have now implemented the testing recommendation and others expect to do the same soon.

A coalition of groupings claims that the EU recommendations “conflict” with the assessment published by European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on 3 January.

Their statement said this assessment “confirms that the current rise in COVID-19 cases in China should not impact the EU/EEA epidemiological situation.”

Medical staff waits for passengers arriving on an Air China flight from Guangzhou, China, at the COVID-19 testing area at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport. – AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

“Therefore, systematic testing of travelers coming from China cannot be considered a scientific and risk-based measure.”

According to the ECDC, EU citizens have a relatively high level of vaccination, so the likelihood of imported infections is low compared to everyday cases. It adds that COVID-19 variants circulating in China are already present on the block.

What do airports and airlines think should be done to stop the spread of COVID-19?

ACI Europe, IATA and Airlines for Europe support the departure passenger testing as a means of tracking COVID-19.

The groups welcome additional EU recommendations on testing wastewater from airports and aircraft, saying it should be seen as an alternative to passenger testing.

However, they add that if testing is introduced, it “must be carried out by the relevant health authorities as airport and airline staff are not qualified to do so.”

Recommendations currently being introduced by EU countries must be implemented in a “fully uniform way”, the coalition Airport and airline groups are stressed.

“We call on EU Member States and China to cooperate and reconsider their requirements for systematic pre-departure travel testing at the earliest opportunity, based on a scientific risk assessment,” they conclude.

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