Editorial: Lift travel restrictions now

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 March, 2022 at 11:54 am by Andre Camilleri

The Airports Council International (ACI), of which Malta International Airport is a member, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) last Friday called for the removal of all remaining Covid-19 restrictions applying to intra-EU and Schengen area travel, including testing requirements, the need to present proof of vaccination and the need to complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF). This week we have seen this sentiment echoed by Alan Borg, CEO of Malta International Airport.

What’s more, we must note The World Health Organization (WHO), has called travel bans ineffective and has suggested nations to either lift or ease the present Covid-19 travel restrictions. The WHO said that these travel bans could worsen the economy and increase social stress.

If we look across the bloc, many European states have already removed domestic Covid-19 restrictions, such as the need to provide certificates to enter social events or wear masks in public spaces. Contact tracing efforts are also being eased off, rendering PLFs for international travel redundant.

France lifted its Covid-19 passport requirement for access to most venues and events from 14 March, Greece is scrapped its Passenger Locator Forms from 15 March, Romania lifted all travel restrictions imposed due to Covid-19, as of 9 March, Ireland has abolished all Covid-19 entry restrictions from 6 March and Germany has permitted all travellers, regardless of their country of origin, as the high-risk list is abolished from 3 March. As European countries open up and remove restrictions, it is only logical to remove similar restrictions from air transport, and within Malta.

The WHO recommended the same lifting of travel bans at the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Covid-19. As per the report, the nations should remove the travel bans and restrictions as the committee found “they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to the economic and social stress experienced” by citizens.

The report issued at the end of January, further stated that these travel restrictions have been incompetent in capping the international spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. This shows that such travel restrictions are ineffective.

This week the UK has also become one of the first major economies to remove every one of its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions; this is a crucial moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector. British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Monday that all remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, including testing for arrivals, will end as of early this Friday. From 4 am Friday 18 March, restrictions including the passenger locator form ( PLF ) for arrivals into the UK and all tests for passengers who do not qualify as vaccinated will be lifted.

“These changes are possible due to our vaccine rollout and mean greater freedom in time for Easter,” Shapps said. The Easter holidays are a popular time for British holidaymakers. The announcement means people can enter the UK without any restrictions for the first time since the pandemic began in spring 2020.

We hope these calls by Mr Borg and other business leaders are heard locally. Malta can then begin to re piece the tourism sector ahead of the busier seasons and receive a much-needed boost to an ailing industry.

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