A total of 35 countries in Africa and the Middle East (AME) have government-imposed quarantine measures in place – which is a major barrier to the restart of tourism in the region.

Iata has therefore called on governments in the region to implement testing as an alternative to quarantine when reopening their economies.

“The impact of implementing quarantines on arrival is that the region effectively remains in lockdown, despite borders being open,” said Muhammad Albakri, Iata Regional Vice President for AME. He pointed to recent public opinion research by Iata that showed that 88% of travellers would not even consider travelling if quarantine measures were imposed on them at their destination

“Mandatory quarantine measures stop people from travelling. We understand that governments’ priority is on protecting the well-being of their citizens. Quarantine destroys livelihoods. Testing is an alternative method that will also save travel and tourism jobs,” said Albakri,

And travellers support testing. The latest Iata survey of passenger attitudes shows that 72% of people surveyed agreed that those who test negative for COVID should not have to quarantine, and that 80% of people feel that COVID-19 is sufficiently under control in the country to open borders.

Quarantines, closed borders and travel restrictions continue to decimate travel demand in Africa and the Middle East. Traffic levels in Africa and the Middle East saw the largest drop of all regions in July compared with 2019 levels. Total passenger traffic in Africa in July 2020 was 93.7% below 2019 levels and in the Middle East was 95.5% below 2019 levels.

Aviation supported more than 6.2 million jobs and $56 billion in GDP in Africa, and 2.4 million jobs and US$130 billion in GDP in the Middle East pre-COVID-19. The economic impact of the collapse in air traffic in 2020 due to COVID-19 could be 3.5 million lost jobs and US$35 billion in GDP in Africa and 1.5 million lost jobs and US$85 billion in GDP in the Middle East.

“Testing provides a safe alternative to quarantine and a solution to stop the economic and social devastation being caused by COVID-19,” said Albakri.