Major airline groups push for end to coronavirus quarantines, travel bans

Spectators take images of a British Airways Boeing 747 as it does a flypast over London Heathrow airport on it's final flight, the last of 31 jumbo jets to be retired early by the airline due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in London, Britain Oct 8, 2020. REUTERS
The United States, state governments and some foreign countries should replace quarantines and travel bans on airline passengers with COVID-19 testing of travellers before departure and upon arrival, airline and business groups said on Thursday.

They said the move would boost US international air travel, which is down 78% year-over-year for the most recent seven-day period, according to airline industry data.

The groups, which include the International Air Transport Association, Airlines for America, the US Chamber of Commerce, airline unions and the US Travel Association, called on the Trump administration, state governors and international partners "to pursue a risk-based and data-driven approach to COVID-19 testing which would obviate the need for quarantines and travel bans so that the travel network can be safely re-opened."

The groups added that "travel quarantines are decimating our industry."

Currently, 18 US states have some type of quarantine for arriving travellers, the groups said. Hawaii last week began allowing airline passengers who tested negative for COVID-19 to avoid a two-week mandatory quarantine upon arrival.

The United States still has in place entry bans on nearly all non-US citizens who recently were in China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, Iran and countries in the so-called Schengen border-free area of Europe.

Nearly all of Europe still bans most US travellers, while the UK allows Americans to visit but requires a two-week quarantine upon arrival.

"The continued restrictions on international travel and differing state and international quarantine policies are hampering the recovery of the US economy," the letter added.

The Trump administration has been holding high-level discussions with countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Canada and Italy about the possibility of establishing "flight bubbles" that would allow travel or reduce quarantines if passengers agreed to COVID-19 tests before departure and upon arrival.

Under discussion are whether a quarantine would still be required, with some health experts in the Trump administration calling for a one-week quarantine, and what test would be used. Rising coronavirus infections in some countries, such as the United States, pose a hurdle to lifting restrictions.