African and Middle Eastern countries should adapt their quarantine measures to enable the aviation sector to begin a recovery while containing spread of the coronavirus, IATA has urged.

The association notes that government quarantines are in place across 36 African and Middle Eastern countries, accounting for 40% of these measures globally.

Over 80% of surveyed travellers indicated unwillingness to travel at all while a quarantine was in place, IATA warns.

“It is critical that AME [African and Middle Eastern] governments implement alternatives to quarantine measures,” states Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s regional vice-president for the region. “AME has the highest number of countries in the world with government-imposed quarantine measures on arriving passengers.

“The region is effectively in complete lockdown with the travel and tourism sector shuttered. This is detrimental in a region where 8.6 million people depend on aviation for their livelihoods.”

IATA is urging AME governments to adopt a “layering of measures” to enable air travel to restart safely, with a focus on reducing the risk of importing coronavirus via passengers and mitigating the risk when infected people do cross borders.

Measures the association advocates include discouraging symptomatic passengers from travelling, including through airlines offering flexibility on ticket changes, health screening, Covid-19 testing, contact tracing, and following of ICAO’s safety guidelines to minimise onboard infection.

“Implementing a layered approach should give governments the confidence to open borders without quarantine, and passengers the confidence to fly,” adds Albakri. “Air connectivity is critical to economic and sustainable development in and across AME.”

The region’s airline industry has been severely impacted by coronavirus, IATA data shows, with key markets experiencing collapsing passenger demand against a year earlier. For June, South Africa is expected to have seen 15.6 million fewer passengers, for example; elsewhere, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia stand out with declines of 13.8 million, 32 million and 36 million, respectively.

IATA believes that African airlines will lose $42 for each passenger they carry in 2020, while for Middle Eastern airlines the figure is estimated at $37.