As the UK this week became the latest country to drop quarantine requirements for some fully vaccinated visitors, questions are rightly being raised around how markets with low vaccination rates can open up if such a trend persists.
The danger is that in a world where Covid jabs are the main currency for international travel, a region such as Africa, where less than 2% of the population has been fully vaccinated, is further pushed into the mire.
Speaking during a briefing this week, IATA director general Willie Walsh said that proof of a negative Covid-19 test should be given equal status to proof of vaccination.
“Vaccinated people shouldn’t require testing and shouldn’t require isolation, regardless of where they are coming from, but it is critical from an equity point of view that we continue to facilitate people who can’t be vaccinated or haven’t been able to access vaccination,” Walsh states.
That is crucial for Africa, which World Health Organization targets suggest might not see 70% of its population vaccinated until mid-2022, at best.
As RwandAir chief executive Yvonne Makolo warned recently: “We really want to see a situation where we allow people to travel as long as they have a negative Covid [test], and the ones who are vaccinated can be allowed to travel freely [as well].
“Given the issue of vaccine inequity, a lot of African countries have not been able to get the vaccines they had hoped for, including Rwanda.”
Amid those concerns, airline struggles continue across the region, not helped by a resurgence of cases linked to the Delta variant of Covid-19, which is likely to further delay the unpicking of a patchwork of travel restrictions.
In recent days, for example, South African Airways’ woes spilled over into its low-cost unit Mango, with some questioning whether the government might give up on the carrier.
That development’s origins are pre-Covid but challenges are being exacerbated by the current crisis – an observation that could be applied to the issues facing much of the region’s airline industry as it seeks to recover from the pandemic.
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