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Ensure Covid tests don't make travel unaffordable, IATA to governments

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The Times Of India
04th May, 2021 20:36 IST

NEW DELHI: The International Air Transport Association ( IATA ) has asked governments globally to ensure reasonably priced and timely Covid tests to ensure the same do not “put travel out of reach for individuals and families.”

It surveyed RT-PCR testing cost in 16 countries (not India) and found that of them only France bears this cost. In the other 15 countries, average minimum and maximum cost for testing was $90 and $208, respectively. The countries surveyed include Australia, Brazil, Germany, Japan, UK and USA.

“Even taking the average of the low-end costs, adding PCR testing to average airfares would dramatically increase the cost of flying for individuals. Pre-crisis, the average one-way airline ticket, including taxes and charges, cost $200 (2019 data). A $90 PCR test raises the cost by 45% to $290. Add another test on arrival and the one-way cost would leap by 90% to $380. Assuming that two tests are needed in each direction, the average cost for an individual return-trip could balloon from $400 to $760,” IATAT said in a statement

The impact of Covid test costs on family travel would be even more severe. “Based on average ticket prices ($200) and average low-end PCR testing ($90) twice each way, a journey for four that would have cost $1,600 pre-COVID, could nearly double to $3,040—with $1440 being testing costs.”

IATA DG Willie Walsh said: “As travel restrictions are lifted in domestic markets, we are seeing strong demand. The same can be expected in international markets. But that could be perilously compromised by testing costs—particularly PCR testing. Raising the cost of any product this significantly will stifle demand. The impact will be greatest for short haul trips (up to 1,100 km), With average fares of $105, the tests will cost more than the flight. That’s not what you want to propose to travellers as we emerge from this crisis. Testing costs must be better managed. That’s critical if governments want to save tourism and transport jobs; and avoid limiting travel freedoms to the wealthy.”

The World Health Organisation’s International Health Regulations stipulate that states should not charge for testing or vaccination required for travel, or for the issuance of certificates. The WHO Covid Emergency Committee recently reiterated this position, calling on governments to reduce the financial burden on international travelers of complying with testing requirements and any other public health measures implemented by countries.

“Testing costs should not stand between people and their freedom to travel. The best solution is for the costs to be borne by governments. It’s their responsibility under WHO guidelines. We must not let the cost of testing—particularly PCR testing—limit the freedom to travel to the rich or those able to be vaccinated. A successful restart of travel means so much to people—from personal job security to business opportunities and the need to see family and friends. Governments must act quickly to ensure that testing costs don’t stall a travel recovery,” said Walsh.
“How is it that the minimum cost of a PCR test can be as low as $77 in Australia but $278 in Japan, for example?” said Walsh.

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