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IATA Responds to Reintroduction of COVID-19 Testing

Air China’s A350 Star Alliance Livery approaching at Singapore’s Changi International Airport. | (Photo: Lei Yan)

Chinese authorities are now allowing citizens to travel internationally again after almost three years of strict bans due to the pandemic. However, as a result, airlines are again facing the prospect of managing passenger testing in several countries. Since the lifting of the Chinese government’s COVID-19 elimination policy last month, a number of countries have reintroduced testing requirements for airline travelers from China.

Airline advocacy organization IATA (International Air Transport Association) has expressed ‘disappointment’ at the imposition of travel restrictions for passengers from China. In a statement issued on Wednesday, IATA Director General Willie Walsh said, “It is extremely disappointing to see this knee-jerk reinstatement of measures that have proven ineffective over the last three years.”

Walsh cited that countries should employ “tools to manage COVID-19 without resorting to ineffective measures that cut off international connectivity, damage economies and destroy jobs. Governments must base their decisions on ‘science facts’ rather than ‘science politics’.” He also urged the Chinese government “to remove the need for pre-departure COVID-19 testing for those traveling to China.”

The U.S., India, Italy, Japan and Australia are among those countries imposing measures on travelers from China. As with the management of testing requirements at the various peaks of the pandemic over the last three years countries are implementing various types of controls and approaches that could be considered ‘inconsistent’. For example, the U.S. require travelers from China to undertake a COVID-19 test prior to departure. Authorities in Japan will require passengers arriving from China to undertake a test upon arrival with those testing positive subject to quarantine.

The English government initially advised that pre-arrival testing would be required but reversed that decision. Reuters reported that the approach now is that testing will be voluntary and any passenger who may test positive after arriving in the country would not need to quarantine. With several European countries imposing their own measures the European Union (EU) issued a statement on Wednesday seeking ‘a coordinated precautionary approach in the light of Covid-19 developments in China’ by all member states. CNBC reported that health policy is determined by each EU member state hence some countries such as Italy, France and Sweden initiating testing measures whilst other countries within the EU have no restrictions.

This week, Morocco took a more extreme approach and banned all travel from China of citizens from any country. In a statement announcing the measures, the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the restrictions had been initiated after closely following events within China over recent weeks. The Ministry also advised, ‘ This exceptional measure in no way affects the sincere friendship between the two peoples nor the strategic partnership between the two countries, to which the Kingdom remains firmly attached.’

Given the dynamic nature of the current situation and with past knowledge of travel restrictions, travelers should check on the requirements for travel close to the dates of travel.

John Flett


  • John Flett

    John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content. John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John has held the positions of course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and has been a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.

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