High testing costs could stall recovery: Iata
To facilitate an efficient restart of international travel, Covid-19 testing must be affordable as well as timely, widely available, and effective. The International Air Transport Association (Iata) called on governments to ensure that high costs for Covid-19 testing don’t put travel out of reach for individuals and families.
An Iata sampling of costs for PCR tests (the test most frequently required by governments) in 16 countries showed wide variations by markets and within markets. Of the markets surveyed, only France complied with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for the state to bear the cost of testing for travellers. Of the 15 markets where there is a cost for PCR testing to the individual, the average minimum cost for testing was $90 and the average maximum cost for testing was $208.
“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,” said Willie Walsh, Iata’s Director General.
“Testing costs should not stand between people and their freedom to travel. The best solution is for the costs to be borne by governments”
– Willie Walsh
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.
“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.
Among the markets surveyed, France represents the best practice. It bears the cost of testing, including tests to facilitate travel. The European Parliament is moving Europe in the right direction: it called for testing to be universal, accessible, timely and free-of-charge across the EC.
“France and the European Parliament are helping to lead the way. We are in a health and economic emergency. Testing is part of the road to recovery. So it’s a government responsibility to ensure that testing is accessible to all. If governments are not going to make testing free, at least they must ensure that there is no profiteering by testing companies at the expense of people who just want to get back to some form of normality in their life and travel habits. And that scrutiny should include governments themselves who, under no circumstances, should charge a tax for this critical service,” said Walsh.
Markets covered in the Iata sampling were Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, UK, USA, and Vietnam. Not all these markets require PCR testing. Nevertheless, the inbound requirements for PCR testing by many states make the availability of affordable options everywhere critical for a travel recovery.