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Coronavirus: IATA urges Middle East to unify health steps to aid COVID-19 travel

Governments in the Middle East should unify health measures, adopt free coronavirus testing and scrap quarantines to facilitate the recovery of travel, the International Air Transport Association urged on Wednesday.

Inconsistent application of biosafety measures along with unnecessary border constraints are deterring passengers and suppressing the resumption of air travel in the Middle East, IATA said in a statement.

Travelers “face an array of different types of biosafety measures and procedures, which is causing confusion among passengers and delaying the recovery,” said Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.

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IATA said coronavirus tests should be accurate and fast, adding there should be no charge for mandatory testing while voluntary ones should be cost-effective.

A number of countries in the Middle East have implemented testing, but in many cases the tests do not meet the criteria set by IATA.

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In some cases, both departure and arrival tests are required, the statement said.

Tests that are expensive and also do not meet the IATA criteria “will most likely limit the recovery in air travel demand,” Albakri said.

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The IATA also urged governments to avoid quarantine measures, implemented by many countries, saying that around 80 percent of passengers are unwilling to travel when quarantine is required.

The IATA said in early July that the aviation sector in the Middle East has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and estimated that its revenues will drop by 56 percent this year compared to 2019.

A majority of nations in the Middle East partially reopened their aviation sectors following total shutdowns, but many countries still require passengers to observe stringent health measures.