New Research Backs Rapid Covid-19 Testing for Safe Restart of Air Travel

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Tuesday urged governments to accept best-in-class rapid antigen tests in fulfillment of Covid-19 testing requirements following the publication of new research by OXERA and Edge Health.

“We are already seeing rapid testing becoming commonplace in non-travel settings such as schools and workplaces. Extending its use to travel is a logical step,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

According to the association, testing requirements are currently fragmented, which is confusing to travelers. Moreover, many governments do not allow rapid testing. If the only options available for travelers are PCR tests, these come with significant costs disadvantages and inconvenience, says IATA.

The OXERA-Edge Health report commissioned by the association, found that antigen tests are:

  • Accurate: the best antigen tests provide broadly comparable results to PCR tests in accurately identifying infected travelers. The BinaxNOW antigen test, for example, misses just one positive case in 1000 travellers (based on an infection rate of 1% among travelers). And it has similarly comparable performance to PCR tests in levels of false negatives.
  • Convenient: processing times for antigen tests are 100 times faster than for PCR testing.
  • Cost-efficient: antigen tests are, on average, 60 percent cheaper than PCR tests.

“Restarting international aviation will energize the economic recovery from Covid-19,” said de Juniac.

According to IATA’s CEO, along with vaccines, testing will play a critical role in giving governments the confidence to re-open their borders to travelers.

“For governments, the top priority is accuracy. But travelers will also need tests to be convenient and affordable. The OXERA-Edge Health report tells us that the best-in-class antigen tests can tick all these boxes. It’s important for governments to consider these findings as they make plans for a re-start,” said de Juniac.

WTTC tells UK: Rapid testing on departure can revive travel

In its submission to the UK government’s Global Travel Taskforce on Tuesday, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) said that rapid testing on departure at airports is the key to unlocking international travel.

The global tourism body says while the UK’s world-leading vaccine rollout is to be applauded, the Travel & Tourism sector cannot wait for every member of the public to be vaccinated.

Photo source: WTTC

Photo source: WTTC

“We believe a combination of vaccines, testing, digital health passes and health and safety protocols, including mandatory face mask wearing, will unlock travel,” Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said.

According to the WTTC, this combination of measures would also help save millions of jobs and livelihoods which depend on the sector and accelerate the much-needed economic recovery.

“Travel & Tourism is a powerhouse waiting to jumpstart the world economic recovery,” Guevara added.

The global Travel & Tourism sector last year suffered a catastrophic loss of almost US$4.5 trillion due to the pandemic, according to the WTTC’s annual Economic Impact Report (EIR).

The annual research showed the sector’s contribution to GDP dropped a staggering 49.1 percent, as the sector struggled to survive in the face of crippling travel restrictions and unnecessary quarantines.