MONTREAL (Reuters) – A UN-led aviation task force aims to make a recommendation by late October on the use of COVID-19 testing to reduce long quarantine requirements that have decimated air travel, two sources said, following a meeting of the group on Tuesday.
Airlines and airports have asked the task force to recommend countries accept a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test from passengers within 48 hours of traveling from countries with high COVID-19 infection rates as an alternative to 14-day quarantines.
The International Civil Aviation Organization-led CART task force plans to make a non-binding recommendation for countries on the use of testing at an October 29 meeting, although such efforts could be delayed, the sources said. It’s not yet clear what recommendation would be made over testing.
Australia, which has some of the world’s strictest COVID-19 travel and quarantine restrictions, has raised concerns over the proposal from airlines, a third source said.
Governments and industry groups are looking at options such as the use of bilateral agreements that would allow travellers to move between countries with similar infection rates without quarantines, or require testing in other cases.
The European Commission, for one, recently proposed a common traffic light system for EU member states to coordinate border controls.
And a plan proposed by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), to be discussed by G20 leaders in early October, would allow travellers from “low-risk” countries to avoid quarantine altogether with a negative test result, the London Telegraph reported on Tuesday.
Airlines are forecasting a 55% decline in 2020 air traffic, according to airline trade group IATA, which reported 85% of surveyed travelers expressed concerns about quarantine.
An Australia government spokesperson said the country is working on the international aviation response to the pandemic, while “noting different states are dealing with different levels of impact of COVID-19.”
ICAO said it would be premature to comment.
(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)