IATA Applauds WHO Downgrading of COVID; Says Lessons to be Learned for "Next" Global Health Emergency

Following the declaration made by the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) on 06MAY that COVID is no longer considered a global public health emergency, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) responded with its support.

“It is good news that the WHO has formally recognized that COVID no longer represents a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC),” said IATA Deputy Director General Conrad Clifford.

In the U.S., COVID'S status as a public health emergency is set to expire 11MAY when wide-ranging measures to support the pandemic response, including vaccine mandates, will end.

While IATA's Clifford said this is evidence that the world is doing its best to get back to normal, it is important not to forget the "disastrous" impact of the pandemic.

From a travel industry perspective, Clifford said the lack of scientific basis, consistency or clear communication of the restrictions meant that they had little impact on the spread of the virus, but instead affected millions of people who were unable to visit their families or continue their business activities.

This had a direct impact on the aviation industry, putting millions of jobs at risk and setting back global air connectivity by years, according to IATA.

The organization also tacitly acknowledged that in an increasingly connected world, while the worst of COVID has passed, another global pandemic could arise.

In anticipation of the "next global public health emergency," Clifford said governments should acknowledge the crucial role of aviation in facilitating the transportation of vaccines, medicines, equipment, and medical professionals, and take steps to preserve global air connectivity and supply chains. That would include, he proposed, recognizing aviation personnel as essential workers and exempting them from strict quarantine measures.

“Decisions taken during the next global public health emergency should be consistent, grounded in science, risk-assessed, and well communicated,” said Clifford.

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