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European airports back calls for axing of blanket travel bans

Europe’s airports have joined calls for the axing of blanket travel bans in response to the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Trade body ACI Europe said it gave its “strongest support” to calls from the World Health Organisation to take a “calm and measured approach” to the new variant.

And it backed the health body’s assertion that blanket travel bans such as those currently in place for a number of southern African countries would not prevent the international spread of the variant and placed “a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods”.

In a statement, ACI Europe said: “Europe’s airports are at the front line of a country’s travel policy. They have seen first-hand the dramatic and disproportionate impact of travel bans and other extreme travel restrictions – specifically quarantines – which have little effect upon the epidemiological situation.

“The WHO’s unequivocal guidance to countries not to knee-jerk into travel bans is extremely welcome.”

Olivier Jankovec, the group’s director general, added: “We know beyond any doubt from the experience gained over these past 20 months that blanket travel bans and quarantines are not effective in preventing the spread of new variants.

“While they have no impact on the epidemiological situation, they do have dramatic consequences upon livelihoods. We urge all countries to follow the WHO advice and make sure they follow evidence-informed and risk-based approaches when reviewing their travel regimes, as part of precautionary measures in relation to the Omicron variant.

“In particular, targeted pre-departure testing should be preferred over travel bans and quarantines. Effective coordination and alignment at EU level involving all EEA countries, Switzerland and also the UK is a must.”

ACI Europe also stressed the urgency of a greater vaccine rollout “not just in Europe but globally”.

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