AFRICA has urged all countries in the different regions to refrain from introducing vaccine passports as a pre-requisite for international travel, saying that it does not conform to the principles of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
In a statement jointly presented by the Minister of Infrastructures & Transports of Benin Republic Hervé Hehomey, the Minister in charge of Transport of Malawi Nancy Chaola Mdooko and the Minister for Aviation of Nigeria Hadi Sirika, at the virtual High-Level Conference on Covid-19, the region maintained that the PCR test or antigen test should be maintained as the only requirement until vaccines became widely available.
“With only 1.75 per cent of Africa’s population fully vaccinated according to Africa Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) as at 16 August 2021, a considerable number of African citizens have not yet been vaccinated. Africans should not face more travel restrictions as a result of introduction of vaccine passport because they cannot access vaccines that are only available elsewhere,” the statement said.
It stressed that the sustainability of the aviation industry in Africa would largely depend on several strategies and actions undertaken by all relevant stakeholders such as the harmonisation of rules and procedures.
The statement said states should refrain from imposing unilateral measures of global nature related to public health.
The African states added that human rights, regional/continental/global health security, economic growth, social cohesion, good international relations, and use of innovation and technology worldwide to harmonise requirements should be promoted.
“Transmission of critical information across borders related to public health issues such as COVID-19 and coordination among key players should be considered. States party to the Convention on International Civil Aviation should continue to minimize the risks during travel by ensuring compliance with existing multinational treaties, international frameworks, guidelines and recommendations,” the statement advised.
The COVID-19 outbreak is already posing a serious threat to the realisation of the AU Agenda 2063 flagship projects and slowing down gains already made in the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD), the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), as well as the protocol on the free movement of persons and removal of visa restrictions, all of which were intended to promote sustainable development and growth of air transport in Africa.
The entire aviation industry in Africa, therefore, requires strong technical and financial support from financial entities and international partners and organisations to boost recovery of the sector, the statement said.
African states argued that introducing vaccine passports as a pre-requisite for international travel would have enormous negative implications for their economy.
Recommendation 19 of the ICAO’s Council Aviation Recovery Taskforce (CART) ambiguously states that “vaccination should not be a prerequisite for international travel” and adds that where there is evidence that vaccinated persons would not transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus or would present a reduced risk of transmitting the virus, they should be exempted from testing and/or quarantine measures.
However, this should be done in accordance with accepted risk threshold, national framework, the COVID-19 situation and the multi-layered risk mitigation framework described in the Take-off: Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis.
The objective of the High-level Conference on COVID-19 (HLCC 2021) holding from 12 October 12-22, 2021, under the theme ‘One Vision for Aviation Recovery, Resilience and Sustainability beyond the Global Pandemic,’ is to reach a global consensus on a multilateral approach, supported by political will and commitments of states, to enable the safe and efficient recovery of aviation from the COVID-19 crisis.
The conference will consider a broad range of issues with particular focus on its safety and facilitation objectives, taking into account the economic impact of COVID-19 on the sector. The conference will also be an opportunity to promote and strengthen collective efforts to harmonise measures and risk management strategy through the implementation of the recommendations by the ICAO CART.