Airlines can’t wait for a COVID vaccine; IATA medical advisor

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Airplane Sanitization
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Dr. David Powell, chief medical adviser of global trade association airlines, International Air Transport Association (IATA) has opined that the airline industry can’t afford to wait for a vaccine.

Apart from face masks, regular hand washing and sanitizing of high-touch surfaces, carriers are required to work with regulators to introduce reliable coronavirus testing systems for passengers before they board in order to get people back on planes.

In an interview with international news media, Dr. Powell stated that “The ideal protection is to avoid people who are infectious. We need a test that’s reliable and fast enough and that’s able to be done in huge numbers.”

In what seems to be tall order, Manufacturers all across the globe are struggling to meet COVID-19 test-kit demand. And the multiple tests that do exist can often cause more confusion than certainty.

Just last month a spat erupted between Singapore and China after the latter found infectious passengers on a flight from the island nation. Singapore said most of the people in question had recovered but “may continue to shed viral fragments for weeks or even months” leading to a positive test result.

With almost no one traveling for business or leisure, airlines are doing everything they can to avoid collapse. IATA, which represents 290 carriers globally, has said it doesn’t see passenger traffic recovering until at least 2024, and it expects airlines to lose more than $84 billion this year alone.

As scientists’ understanding of the pandemic develops, the medical profession’s stance has shifted. In early February, when COVID-19 was still a big question mark in most people’s minds, Dr. Powell said the best way to avoid infection was frequent hand washing rather than wearing a mask. Yet, by May, the recommendation on face coverings was universal.

“We recognize that a percentage of COVID cases can be asymptomatic,” Dr. Powell said earlier last week. “That’s the reason for that change in position.”