Is it dangerous to exempt quarantine for travel up to 72 hours?
Does a short stay mean no COVID risk?
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have joined forces to call for an exemption on quarantine for travel of less than 72 hours. The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) believes such action could signal the return of international business travel and provide a significant economic boost.
The proposal is also under active study by the UK government, according to the Report of the Global Travel Taskforce, of which WTTC is a key contributor, which was prepared for the Department for Transport.
WTTC agrees with EASA/ECDC who have called for travelers not to be automatically considered as high-risk for possibly spreading the infection.
However, the recommendations fall short as they do not address the replacement of quarantines for a testing regime at departure, with quarantines causing untold damage to the already struggling global Travel & Tourism sector.
Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said: “The revival of international business travel is crucial to kickstarting the global economic recovery, as last year, inbound international business travel across Europe accounted for US$111.3 billion (€99.8 billion), whilst globally it accounted for more than US$272 billion.
“The EASA/ECDC proposed guidelines to exempt passengers from quarantines for travel of 72 hours or less would be a significant step in the direction towards the wholesale revival of business travel.
“Airlines, hotels and a vast infrastructure of businesses within the global Travel & Tourism sector, all heavily rely upon business travel. The loss of international business travel leaves airlines especially exposed, particularly on highly competitive short-haul and transatlantic routes, which depend upon them for the bulk of their profits.
“While we welcome all initiatives which could lead to the revival of international travel, we hope to persuade EASA and ECDC to focus on testing at departure, rather than at the point of entry, so as to reduce the possibility of transmission on board aircraft and reduce unnecessary barriers to travel.
“These measures will help ensure the long-term resuscitation of the global Travel & Tourism sector, which, according to WTTC’s 2020 Economic Impact Report, during 2019, was responsible for one in 10 jobs (330 million total), and made a 10.3% contribution to global GDP and generated one in four of all new jobs.”
The guidelines from EASA/ECDC considered the reduced likelihood for infection for those travelling for short periods (i.e. those expecting to return within 72 hours or less) and where contacts with the local population are limited and avoiding any social interactions.
It suggests such travelers should not be subjected to quarantines and/or COVID-19 testing unless they show any symptoms of the virus. However, it continued to recommend all of those who travel must still ensure they adhere to local social distancing rules, to protect themselves and others around them, at all times.
The Center for Disease Control… (CDC) states on its website that travel can increase the chance of spreading and getting COVID-19. It does not say that a shorter travel time has any positive effect on this potential outcome.
The CDC cites these important questions to ask oneself before considering travel.
- Are you, someone in your household, or someone you will be visiting at increased risk for getting very sick from COVID-19?
- Are cases high or increasing in your community or your destination?
- Are hospitals in your community or your destination overwhelmed with patients who have COVID-19?
- Does your home or destination have requirements or restrictions for travelers?
- During the 14 days before your travel, have you or those you are visiting had close contact with people they don’t live with?
The following activities can put travelers at higher risk for COVID-19 – all of which can be done within 72 hours:
- Going to a large social gathering like a wedding, funeral, or party.
- Attending a mass gathering like a sporting event, concert, or parade.
- Being in crowds like in restaurants, bars, fitness centers, or movie theaters.
- Being on trains, buses, in airports, or using public transportation. Traveling on a cruise ship or river boat.
Finally, the CDC says to ask yourself if your plans include traveling by bus, train, or air which might make staying 6 feet apart difficult? Will you be traveling with people who don’t live with you?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” the CDC recommends making other plans, such as delaying travel.