International travellers have been confused by varying travel regulations implemented by various countries.
Safety protocols, which are part of the measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections, differ from nation to country, particularly in Europe.
While some nations are dropping some COVID-19 rules for outbound travellers, others insist on the same standards for inbound travellers, leaving transit passengers in the middle.
The European Union is the most affected by the ambiguity, as the standards differ from one country to the next. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned Wednesday that the lack of EU member states to harmonise COVID-19 entry requirements was jeopardizing free movement within Europe.
According to IATA’s analysis, there are substantial disparities in how EU member states manage travel. Rapid testing is not accepted by about 30% of jurisdictions that use the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate (DCC). Children are not excluded from testing requirements in 19% of states and vaccinated travellers from non-EU ‘White-List’ countries are not allowed in 41% of states.
45 per cent accept online submissions for Passenger Locator Forms, while 33 per cent accept both paper and online entries. However, 11% take just paper, while another 11% have no locator forms at all.
Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe, believes that governments must work together on COVID-19 travel rules.
“In Europe, the good work done by the Commission and the states to develop the DCC is being wasted by a mess of unharmonised regulations. How can passengers travel with confidence when the rules are so different in each country within the European Union”?
“They can’t be sure if their children need to be tested or not, or if they need to fill in a form on paper, online, or not at all. It is one European Union. People reasonably expect a united approach to managing travel,” Schvartzman said.
In particular, when it comes to harmonising DCC requirements, IATA and other stakeholders have urged countries and regional blocs to conduct DCC verification digitally before passengers arrive at the airport, to reduce operational disruptions and give passengers confidence that they are ready to fly. Germany and Spain are two countries that are leading the way in this field.
Stakeholders have also requested that countries develop a state portal to allow national authorities to directly verify DCCs and limit health data processing by airlines, as well as integrate digital Passenger Locator Forms into a state portal for DCC verification, which is currently not the case in 80 per cent of countries.
Furthermore, EU member states must agree on health requirements, such as universal use of fast testing in place of costly and ineffective PCR tests. Minors should be free from all testing and vaccination restrictions, and all borders should be opened to vaccinated passengers and visitors from low-risk nations should be allowed to enter Europe without limitation (or with proof of a negative test from non-vaccinated travellers). In terms of policy alignment, the Netherlands, Estonia, Slovenia, and Spain are leading the way.
“The experience over the European summer shows that a standard digital certificate is not enough: the travel processes around COVID-19 must also be harmonised and smoothed out. We urge European states to sort out the current mess and give hard-pressed passengers greater certainty over their travel plans,” said Schvartzman.