Airports urge governments to rethink flight bans

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A family wearing surgical masks

The Airport Council International (ACI) has voiced concerns over the effectiveness of imposing travel bans. “While the EU balks at the imposition of a transatlantic travel ban by the US, an increasing number of EU countries are imposing their own unilateral restrictions to air connectivity within Europe. Besides further damaging European aviation and worsening the economic fallout of COVID-19, the fact that these measures do not appear aligned with WHO recommendations raises serious doubts as to their effectiveness,” Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe has said.

The WHO continues to advise against travel restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, stating that “in general, evidence shows that restricting the (international) movement of people during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations”.

The WHO recognises that restrictions on international air travel can be justified at the beginning of an outbreak, to prevent or at best delay imported cases from other countries. But once local transmission occurs, these restrictions no longer serve their purpose. The fact that Italy was the first European country to ban all flights to China but still became the European epicentre of the COVID-19 epidemic is a case in point.