Africa airlines’ concern on Covid certificate travel rule


Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

African Airlines Association (AFRAA) wants states to abolish the use of the Covid-19 certificate as a means for admitting travellers into their countries until when there will be reasonable accessibility to vaccines globally.

AFRAA says the travel industry is reeling from the adverse impact of the re-introduction of travel restrictions and implementation of blanket travel bans since the onset of the Omicron variant.

Kenya is among the countries that only admits travellers with Covid-19 certificate whether they are international passengers or locals returning home.

The airline lobby also wants governments and stakeholders to harmonise the health protocols, reconsider the bans and adopt a risk-based approach in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

“States should not impose Covid-19 vaccination certificates as a mandatory travel entry and exit requirement until there is satisfactory access to vaccines globally, reasonable vaccination coverage is attained, and sufficient guidance on the use of the vaccine for travel is available based on recommendations of the WHO,” said AFRAA secretary general, Abdérahmane Berthé.

He said 2021 marked the dawn of recovery with positive trends in air transport activity being witnesses across the globe pointing out that as of October 2021, African airlines had reopened 81.3 percent of their international routes that had been closed due to the pandemic.

“African cargo capacity grew by 33 percent since 2019 and cargo load factors improved by 9 percent from pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

“The travel restrictions and blanket bans are a huge risk to the gains made in the recovery of the travel ecosystem. Furthermore, air transport connectivity and economic sustainability of airlines’ operations will be negatively impacted.”

AFRAA, he said, recognises that a risk-based approach and the safe reopening of borders are critical for the efficient restart of aviation but urged the governments to remove border restrictions and open their markets to restart the industry.

AFRAA recommends that States continue with pre-departure testing until vaccines become widespread, with States transitioning to the use of Rapid Antigen Testing as an alternative to PCR, some of which have been proven to have similar reliability to PCR, is significantly cheaper and takes within 30 minutes for results.

To address credibility of test/vaccination certificates, AFRAA wants Governments to continue to adopt digital Covid-19 test/vaccination certificates wherever possible as verifiable health credentials and as a trusted platform for traveler information.

The agency wants States to implement rapid roll-out of vaccines across the continent to facilitate the restart of economies and Air Transport.

“To date, less than six percent of Africans are fully vaccinated. Vaccination will mitigate the greatest risks of the spread of the pandemic,” said AFRAA.

AFRAA says it remains committed to support the travel ecosystem recovery and continues to engage in collaborative efforts with stakeholders on initiatives that “will form a strong foundation for the transformation and development of air transport”.

Last week extended the suspension of inbound flights from United Arabs Emirates in retaliatory move after the Middle-Eastern state suspended Kenyans from travelling to Dubai indefinitely.

In what appears to be a bold move by Nairobi, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority in its updated travel advisory said flights from Dubai to Nairobi have been banned for a further seven days beginning Monday mid night.

Kenya Airways suspended passenger flights to Dubai in December in line with the directive but it still operates freighters on the route.

The suspension came days after Dubai introduced new travel requirements for direct flights from Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

In addition, travellers were to self-quarantine until they received a negative Covid-19 test certificate issued within 48 hours of arrival in Dubai.

The move is the latest restriction on global travel by UAE aimed at limiting the spread of Covid-19 in the wake of the Omicron variant.