With another wave of Covid-19 looming last month, The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council approved six new COVID-19 recommendations and revised two others. With different countries constantly addressing new challenges due to Covid-19 that come to the forefront, ICAO’s latest information attempts to improve international air travel during the global pandemic recovery. One of the approved recommendations specifically mentions vaccination not being a prerequisite for international travel at this time.
Which Recommendations Were Revised?
Both the new and amended recommendations are found in the High-Level Cover Document and ‘Take-off’ Guidelines issued by the Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART), which were established after the Covid-19 pandemic was initially identified by the World Health Organization (WHO). Of the two revised recommendations mentioned, ICAO recommends that States actively share information with each other with the intention of harmonizing in the creation of a Public Health Corridor. In addition, States are encouraged to enable cross-border access to training facilities to maintain certifications and expertise among airline flight crew. The revised recommendations are listed below:
Recommendation 12 (Revised)
Member States should plan to put in place the necessary measures to mitigate risks associated with prolonged regulatory alleviations, and to avoid extending alleviations (both core and extended COVID-19 Contingency Related Differences (CCRDs)) beyond 31 March 2021. States that are in need of alternative actions to enable service providers and personnel to maintain the validity of their certificates, licenses, and other approvals during the COVID-19 pandemic should use the Targeted Exemptions (TE) system from 1 April 2021. In addition, States are encouraged to facilitate cross-border access to medical and training facilities, including flight simulation training devices used for flight crew (national and foreign) and Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) to maintain their certifications, recency of experience, and proficiency.
Recommendation 14 (Revised)
States considering the formation of a Public Health Corridor (PHC) should actively share information with each other to implement PHCs in a harmonized manner. To facilitate the implementation, the ICAO Implementation Package (iPack) on establishing a PHC is available to States, in addition to PHC-specific tools published on the ICAO website and the App providing a template PHC arrangement between States.
What are the New Recommendations?
Of the six new recommendations, ICAO approved, the one that sticks out the most is Recommendation 19, which suggests that vaccinations should not be a requirement for international travel. This recommendation originates from the latest position of the World Health Organization (WHO,) which specified that proof of COVID-19 vaccination should not be made a condition for international travel. Of course, as we know throughout this pandemic, this and many other rules and regulations could be subject to change depending on the ongoing battle with Covid-19. In addition, the new recommendations encourage member states to request evidence of testing and proof of results that are legitimate and compliant among crew and passengers. The six new recommendations are below:
Member States are urged to implement Addenda Nos. 1 and 2 to the ICAO Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air (Doc 9284) without delay in order to facilitate the transport of COVID-19 vaccines and to permit certain dangerous goods to be carried on board aircraft to provide for a safe, sanitary operating environment for passengers and crew. If any State wishes to be more restrictive, they are reminded of their obligation to file a State variation to the Technical Instructions.
Member States are encouraged to consider the temporary lifting of restrictions to air cargo operations, including but not limited to granting extra-bilateral rights, in particular for all-cargo services, to foreign airlines to facilitate the transportation of essential goods, supplies and COVID-19 vaccines.
Member States should implement testing certificates based on the protocol, minimum dataset and implementation approaches outlined in the ICAO Manual on Testing and Cross-Border Risk Management Measures (Doc 10152) to facilitate air travel. States are encouraged to request evidence of testing that is secure, trustworthy, verifiable, convenient to use, compliant with data protection legislation and internationally/globally interoperable. Existing solutions should be considered and could incorporate a visible digital seal. This may be applicable to vaccination certificates.
Member States should facilitate access for air crew to vaccination as quickly as possible within the World Health Organization (WHO) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) Stage III recommendations.
Vaccination should not be a prerequisite for international travel. At such time as evidence shows that vaccinated persons would not transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus or would present a reduced risk of transmitting the virus, Member States may exempt such individuals from testing and/or quarantine measures, in accordance with a State’s accepted risk threshold, national framework, the COVID-19 situation and the multilayered risk mitigation framework described in the Take-off: Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis.
Member States should ensure that ICAO’s CART guidance is taken into consideration by the wider State administration in the decision-making processes on national recovery planning.
The revised and new recommendations can be found here.
The first 11 ICAO recommendations can be found here.
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