Different travel protocols put in place by some countries have thrown international travellers into a state of confusion.
The safety protocols, as part of criterion to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infections, are in disagreement from one country to another, especially in Europe.
While some other countries are getting silent on some COVID-19 prerequisites for outbound travellers, others insist on the same protocols for inbound travellers, with transit passengers caught in-between.
Most affected by the confusion is the European Union, where the prerequisites differ from one country to the other. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), yesterday, cautioned that free movement within Europe was being breached by the failure of EU member states to harmonise COVID-19 entry regulations.
IATA’s research has found meaningful differences in how EU member states are handling travel. Around 30 percent of states using the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate (DCC) are not accepting rapid testing. 19 percent of states are not excluding children from testing requirements, while 41 percent of states are not permitting vaccinated travellers from non-EU ‘White-List’ countries to enter.
For the Passenger Locator Forms, 45 per cent accept it online, while 33 per cent receive paper and online submissions. But 11 per cent only receives paper, and a further 11 per cent have no locator forms at all.
Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe, said it is important that countries come together on COVID-19 travel procedures.
“In Europe, the good work done by the Commission and the states to develop the DCC is being wasted by a mess of unharmonised regulations. How can passengers travel with confidence when the rules are so different in each country within the European Union?
“They can’t be sure if their children need to be tested or not, or if they need to fill in a form on paper, online, or not at all. It is one European Union. People reasonably expect a united approach to managing travel,” Schvartzman said.
Particularly, with regard to harmonising requirements around the DCC, IATA and other stakeholders have advised countries and regional blocs to conduct DCC verification in a digital manner before passengers arrive at the airport, to limit operational disruptions and give certainty to passengers that they are willing to fly. Germany and Spain are two countries following the best practice in this area.
Also, stakeholders have directed countries to create a state portal to enhance DCC verification directly by national authorities and limit health data processing by airlines, while also integrating digital Passenger Locator Forms into a state portal for DCC verification, which is not presently the case in 80 percent of European countries.
In addition, EU states need to agree on health requirements including: Universal acceptance of rapid testing in place of expensive and unnecessary PCR tests. Universal exemption of minors from testing and vaccination requirements; and the universal opening of borders to vaccinated passengers and to allow travelers from low-risk countries to enter Europe without restriction (or with proof of a negative test from non-vaccinated travelers). The Netherlands, Estonia, Slovenia and Spain are leading the way in agreeing to these policies.
“The experience over the European summer shows that a standard digital certificate is not enough: the travel processes around COVID-19 must also be harmonised and smoothed out. We urge European states to sort out the current mess and give hard-pressed passengers greater certainty over their travel plans,” said Schvartzman.