Many parts of the world are opening their borders to American visitors (and other foreign nationals). In November, African safari countries opened their borders and South American countries are doing the same, in part for fear of missing the peak tourist season in the southern hemisphere.
Some countries have no travel restrictions for arrivals of foreign nationals (Tanzania, Brazil) while others require a negative PCR test within 48, 72 or 96 hours of arrival (Kenya, Belize, Chile). Others require quarantine (Rwanda requires 5 days) but access is open.
The EU, however, is still closing its borders in an attempt to curb the second wave of Covid-19 and many foreign nationals are still banned except for those on the EU approved travel list. This currently includes 9 countries outside the EU / Schengen area, including one in the southern hemisphere – Rwanda, which has done well in keeping its Covid-19 infection rates low.
However, there is optimism this week with the start of testing of Covid-19-free aircraft between the United States and the United Kingdom. Two trials are underway, both very different, as reported TBEN. Trials are also underway on a new healthcare application to facilitate cross-border screening processes.
Test 1: United Airlines – Newark to London Heathrow
This test is mandatory (all passengers who do not wish to participate in the tests will be re-booked on other flights).
Passengers, over the age of 2, are pre-flight tested at the airport prior to departure in an Abbott ID Now rapid test, which accurately diagnoses Covid-19 with people who have symptoms but are missing until to a third of asymptomatic. infections. The tests are done by appointment, 3 hours before the departure of the plane and people receive the results 30 minutes later. If the results are negative, customers are re-booked on a flight at least 10 days later or refunded.
The trial will end after one month.
United Airlines reported that there was a positive response to the tests as there was a significant increase in revenue when the tests were available.
Test 2: American Airlines and British Airways – Dallas, JFK, LA to Heathrow Airport
This test is voluntary for passengers on these flights to Heathrow from 25 November and includes three tests:
- Test 1: A self-administered RT-PCR (nasal) test performed at home via a virtual consultation with a healthcare professional 72 hours before departure.
- Test 2: A LAMP (nasal) test performed on landing at Heathrow Airport.
- Test 3: A self-administered saliva test performed at home three days after arriving in the UK
The reason for these three tests is that they all offer different levels of results at different times. The PCR test is the most reliable but must be processed in a laboratory. The LAMP test is fast, with a 30 minute delay so good for an airport, but most importantly, it can corroborate the results with PCR testing.
This trial will end after 500 clients have been tested.
Even though all tests are negative, passengers will still be required to self-isolate in the UK under current UK travel restrictions.
Janine Brown, head of communications for American Airlines, said TBEN that “the trial is being conducted to show that testing can play a role in reducing the need for quarantine.”
The UK government recently announced it wants to move to reducing or eliminating the quarantine in favor of airport testing.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, American Airlines and British Airways operated up to 111 flights per week between New York and London. Currently, they operate 14 weekly flights.
Initiative 3: Common Pass
The three alliances, Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam, which represent 58 global airlines, also recommend using Common Pass, a digital passport system for health, as reported. TBEN. It is supported by the World Economic Forum and the Swiss foundation The Commons Project and is primarily a non-profit program.
The idea is for passengers to undergo a COVID-19 test up to 72 hours before travel, which is then uploaded to the Common Pass app on their phones via a certified lab. The app generates a code that can be verified by departing airline staff and border officials upon arrival.
United Airlines has started testing the app.
It is hoped that these airport and health passport test pilots will convince government officials to reopen the borders safely.