ASIA PACIFIC. Andrew Herdman, Director General of the Asia Pacific Airlines Association (AAPA), has criticised “arbitrary restrictions and blanket travel bans”, which he says are not helping the coronavirus crisis and result in unnecessary inconvenience and added public uncertainty.
“Regrettably, some of these measures, whilst well-intentioned, seem to lack any proper public health justification, whilst causing significant and widespread disruption to travel and trade activities across the world”
In a hard-hitting statement issued today on the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, Herdman said, “We very much appreciate the leadership being shown by the WHO [World Health Organization] in coordinating the global response to the current outbreak.
“It is worth noting that the WHO has to date not recommended any restriction of international travel or trade based on the current information. It would, however, be prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention.”
Noting that several governments have nevertheless introduced various measures including travel advisories, border entry restrictions and quarantine requirements, Herdman commented, “Regrettably, some of these measures, whilst well-intentioned, seem to lack any proper public health justification, whilst causing significant and widespread disruption to travel and trade activities across the world.
“Arbitrary restrictions and blanket travel bans are inconsistent with the International Health Regulations, and result in unnecessary inconvenience and added uncertainty amongst members of the public. Governments in Asia and elsewhere must strengthen dialogue and work together with WHO, ICAO, and other stakeholders to develop a more comprehensive strategy and globally co-ordinated set of policy measures in response to the current outbreak.”
Herdman commented: “The safety and well-being of the travelling public are always uppermost in our minds. Asia Pacific carriers are well-prepared to handle health crises including those involving communicable diseases and are taking every possible measure to minimise the risk of the novel coronavirus being spread more widely across frontiers.
“The air transport industry is strictly following established guidelines developed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), in consultation with the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airports Council International (ACI), covering the management of public health events.”
Regarding the effect on travel and tourism, Herdman said, “Understandably, growing public concern about the outbreak has already had a very significant impact on demand for air travel across the region, forcing airlines to cut back or suspend services on affected routes. The risk of crews being subjected to arbitrary quarantine measures has resulted in further operational disruption, regardless of any proper risk assessment.
“Airlines are generally waiving cancellation fees or providing refunds to affected passengers on these routes. Rather than impose arbitrary travel bans, we believe that passengers can be trusted to make informed decisions, provided that there is open and transparent communication of accurate information.
“At this critical juncture, improved co-operation and co-ordination by international organisations, national governments, health authorities and everybody involved in combating this global health emergency are of overriding importance. Asia Pacific airlines are fully committed to working closely with the relevant governments and national health authorities to support such efforts in the wider public interest.
“AAPA is closely tracking this rapidly evolving situation and will continue to work closely with other industry stakeholders in addressing further developments.”