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Countries Turn to Testing To Reopen Borders

Emirates aircraft in Dubai (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Hisham Qadri)

Travel across Europe is in a tough spot at the moment as countries increasingly require arriving passengers to quarantine upon arrival. In the U.K., the government now requires passengers arriving from a handful of countries, including Spain, France, the Netherlands and Belgium, to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

As holidaymakers during the busy summer period face uncertainty, other travelers choose to cancel their upcoming trips in fear of changing advice and restrictions over travel. As quarantine proves to put people off travel, testing could become a more viable and effective option.

Many industry stakeholders agree on the need for countries to uphold a clearer strategy on how they expect to open borders and resume travel. As the number of COVID-19 cases resurges in Europe and continues to peak across the Americas, more countries are looking at testing as a mechanism to safely opening their borders. Countries such as Iceland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had been conducting Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests, which search for the novel coronavirus’ genetic makeup in samples, on arriving passengers.

At the moment, Iceland requires passengers to test for COVID at the airport and stay in isolation until they receive a negative test result, while the UAE requires all transit and arrival passengers to present a negative PCR test result that has been carried out within 96 hours of arrival into the country.

According to God Save The Points, Singapore is also looking into testing passengers for COVID on site instead of requiring arrivals to quarantine for 14 days. However, they want to narrow this to a select move of countries that have equal or lower COVID-19 infection rates than they do.

In Germany, testing facilities at airports were implemented last week. PCR tests have become compulsory for arrivals from countries catalogued as high risk and performed free of charge. Countries that have more than 50 cases for every 100,000 people are considered as high risk, according to DW. Passengers then receive their results via an app, allowing those who tested positive to take precautions and socially isolate.

Second Tests at Some Locations

As the rates of infection rise, two countries are now requiring two negative COVID-19 test results in order to shorten social isolation times. In Iceland, all international arrivals will be required to take a second COVID test between 4-6 days of arrival; passengers are asked to quarantine in the meantime. All travelers must place register their location where they will be quarantining on a pre-registration online form. After receiving a second negative test result, travelers are allowed out.

The UAE is also implementing similar measures, such as requiring passengers from a list of high-risk countries, including select destinations in the U.S like Dallas Fort/Worth, Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale, to carry out a second test upon their arrival to the country. By requiring passengers to download an app, they can be monitored through contact and location tracing, ensuring that those testing positive comply with isolation measures whilst they contain the virus.

With reports alleging that as many as 70% of coronavirus cases are asymptomatic, testing might be a more effective method of containing the spread of the virus than mandatory quarantine, as quarantine narrows down tracing to symptomatic cases. Tests, meanwhile, can identify people who do not have no or mild symptoms

Jose Antonio Payet
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  • Jose Antonio Payet

    As a geography nerd, Jose has always been fascinated by the complexities of the airline industry and its ability to bring the world closer together. Born and raised in Peru, now studying in the UK. he has travelled around America, Europe and South East Asia. His favorite aircraft is the Boeing 767-300, which he has flown many times during his childhood; although now the A350 is slowly growing up on him.

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