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Airline group IATA disappointed with 'knee-jerk' COVID-19 measures for travellers from China

Airline group IATA disappointed with 'knee-jerk' COVID-19 measures for travellers from China

Passengers wait in a queue after Italy ordered COVID-19 antigen swabs and virus sequencing for all travellers coming from China, where cases are surging, at the Malpensa Airport in Milan, Italy, Dec 29, 2022. (Photo: Reuters/Jennifer Lorenzini)

SINGAPORE: The head of the world's biggest airline trade body on Wednesday (Jan 4) criticised the move by several countries to impose COVID-19 border rules on travellers from China, saying that such measures have proven ineffective previously. 

“Several countries are introducing COVID-19 testing and other measures for travellers from China, even though the virus is already circulating widely within their borders," said Mr Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

"It is extremely disappointing to see this knee-jerk reinstatement of measures that have proven ineffective over the last three years."

The United States, Italy, Japan and South Korea are among the countries that announced restrictions on travellers from China, which is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases since it abruptly began dismantling its tough zero-COVID policy in early December.

In a statement, Mr Walsh urged governments to listen to the advice of experts, including the World Health Organization, that advise against travel restrictions.

"Research undertaken around the arrival of the Omicron variant concluded that putting barriers in the way of travel made no difference to the peak spread of infections. At most, restrictions delayed that peak by a few days. If a new variant emerges in any part of the world, the same situation would be expected," he said. 

"We have the 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’.”

China on Tuesday called the mounting international restrictions on travellers from its territory "unacceptable".

"This lacks scientific basis and some practices are unacceptable," foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular briefing, warning China could "take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity".

The United States replied that it had taken action in response to the "lack of adequate and transparent" data from China and concerns that the heavy caseload could result in new variants.

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Source: CNA/at(gs)


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