Lack of harmonised health protocols in the region is threatening to wish away the gains made in the aviation sector, African Airlines Association has warned.
The lobby now wants African states to stop imposing COVID-19 vaccination certificates as a mandatory travel entry and exit requirement until there is satisfactory access to vaccines globally.
In a raft of recommendations to the African states AFRAA says that until reasonable vaccination coverage is attained and sufficient guidance on the use of the vaccine for travel is available based on recommendations by WHO, states should open up their airspaces.
AFRAA Secretary General, Abdérahmane Berthé says that the travel ecosystem is reeling from the adverse impact of the re-introduction of travel restrictions and implementation of blanket travel bans since the onset of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
“The travel restrictions and blanket bans are a huge risk to the gains made in the recovery of the travel ecosystem. Furthermore, air transport connectivity and economic sustainability of airlines’ operations will be negatively impacted,” said Berthé.
They are now asking the African governments and stakeholders to adopt harmonised the health protocols, reconsider the bans and embrace a risk-based approach in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on travel.Loading…
AFRAA is also proposing for a continuation of pre-departure testing until vaccines become widespread, with States transitioning to the use of Rapid Antigen Testing as an alternative to PCR, which have been proven to have similar reliability to PCR and is significantly cheaper and takes within 30 minutes for results.
2021 marked the dawn of recovery with positive trends in air transport activity across the globe.
As at October 2021, African airlines had reopened 81.3 percent of their international routes that had been closed due to the pandemic.
Over the same period African cargo capacity grew by 33 percent since 2019 and cargo load factors improved by 9 percent from pre-pandemic levels.
“AFRAA recognises that a risk-based approach and the safe reopening of borders are critical for the efficient restart of aviation. We urge governments to remove border restrictions and open their markets to restart the industry with support from Industry Restart Plan Standards and guidance documentation,” added Berthé.
The Experts argue that digital verification will eliminate a significant number of cheats.
The Association adds that to address credibility of test/vaccination certificates, Governments to continue to adopt digital COVID-19 test/vaccination certificates wherever possible as verifiable health credentials and as a trusted platform for traveler information.
“States should implement rapid roll-out of vaccines across the continent to facilitate the restart of economies and Air Transport. To date, less than 6 percent of Africans are fully vaccinated. Vaccination will mitigate the greatest risks of the spread of the pandemic.”