Malaysia Airlines

The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) is encouraging the Government to refrain from travel restrictions in response of COVID-19.

With reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO) stating that the virus has spread to over 100 countries, it is believed that most of the cases are through local transmission rather than from abroad. Consequently, WHO has argued against travel and trade restrictions, “as such measures are generally ineffective.”

WHO issued a report on 10 March 2020 which stated that only 45 have informed the organisation of restricting measures and supported the choice with associated public health rational, as is required under the International Health Regulations (IHR). Nonetheless, over 90 countries still possess travel bans. The travel restrictions have caused major disruptions to supply chains, commerce, trade and peoples’ livelihoods due to the economic impact.

As air travel has been remarked as safe by medical experts, the airline industry has been adhering to WHO and IATA guidelines on inflight hygiene and disinfection to protect the passengers. This has included improved cleaning of the aircraft and airline lounges and using hospital grade HEPA air filtration systems on board aircraft.

Currently, no reports of COVID-19 infections attributed to inflight transmission have been made which has caused the industry to debate the necessity of travel restrictions.

“The airline industry is fully committed to the safety and well-being of the travelling public,” commented Andrew Herdman, AAPA Director General. “Asia Pacific are well-equipped to handle health crisis’ and are strictly following established guidelines developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), in consultation with the WHO and Airports Council International (ACI), covering the management of public health risks.”

Herdman reiterated the importance to notice that the travel restrictions have caused a disruption “to people’s livelihoods and the negative repercussions to the wider economy.” He calls for a more globally coordinated set of policy measures which addresses the risk of coronavirus but reduces the social and economic impact. Resources could be then be used towards strengthening the public health response.