ME govts urged to enact ICAO Covid-19 rules

July 2020

Aviation groups representing various markets and parts of the industry have jointly urged governments in the Middle East to `rapidly’ implement a common set of guidelines for restoring air connectivity to ensure harmonised restart of aviation in the region.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) and Airports Council International (ACI) Asia-Pacific  have joined the International Civil Aviation Organization Middle East (ICAO MID) in urging the governments implement guidelines issued by ICAO.

The guidelines propose a phased approach to restarting aviation and identifies a set of generally applicable risk-based measures which, in line with recommendations and guidance from public health authorities, will mitigate the risk of transmission of the Covid-19 virus during the travel process.

The organisations are also urging states to identify every opportunity where travel restrictions could be lifted, through bilateral or multilateral arrangements among countries – as soon as the epidemiological situation allows for it.

“This is a ‘living guidance’ which will be continuously updated based on the latest medical and operational advice and risk assessments as the world starts to reconnect. Governments and industry stakeholders can have certainty as they take action to get the world flying again,” said ICAO’s Acting Regional Director for the Middle East, Mohamed Smaoui.

“The guidance recognises that social distancing is not possible on an aircraft, therefore supports face coverings as part of a layered risk mitigation approach. And recommends contact tracing which should give governments the confidence to open borders without quarantine measures,” said Muhammad Albakri, Iata’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.

Albakri said they are counting on governments in the region to implement the guidelines “quickly and in a harmonised and mutually recognised way,” citing that airlines need to play a key role in the economic recovery.

If the guidelines are not followed, he said it could slow down attempts to revive an industry that has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Local deviations and exceptions will damage public confidence and make it harder to operate effectively slowing down the industry restart. This would be harmful to public health and the economic recovery,” Albakri said.

Covid-19 has devastated the air transport industry in the Middle East. Demand in terms of passenger volumes is forecast to fall 56 per cent in 2020 year-on-year for airlines and 47 per cent for airports, according to IATA.

Airlines in the region are expected to post a net loss of $4.8 billion this year as passenger revenues decline by $24 billion compared to the previous year. Airports in the region are also expected to suffer, with an estimated total revenue loss of $7 billion, representing a 52 per cent year-on-year decline in 2020.

Job losses in aviation and related industries in the region could reach 1.2 million and GDP supported by aviation could fall by $66 billion. Before the Covid-19 crisis aviation supported 2.4 million jobs in the region and generated $130 billion in GDP.

“Aviation is facing the biggest challenge of its history: safely restarting international connectivity while ensuring that aviation is not a meaningful source for the spread of Covid-19 is not an option but rather a necessity.  We need all hands-on deck to get the industry up and running again and are committed to making the journey as seamless and risk free as possible. We will collaborate support states to implement these guidelines in the fastest and most efficient way and encourage governments and other industry stakeholders to reach out to us for support,” said Albakri. 

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