ICAO’s new manual favors highly sensitive COVID-19 tests to spur air travel

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
  • Follow author on
Flight Cabin
Representational Image

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)’s manual on Testing and Cross Border Risk Management Measures has reportedly suggested global guidelines on using highly accurate and reliable COVID-19 tests for screening passengers ahead for air travel. 

The revelation comes amid rising concerns from all stakeholders who are involved in the aviation sector to have unified travel restrictions and testing protocols which reduce uncertainty and boost air travel.

The global aviation trade group International Air Transport Association (IATA) had recently forecasted a 66 percent drop in air traffic this year due to the pandemic.

Travel restrictions continue to differ from country to country. While certain carriers bar all non-essential travel, few mandate a negative COVID-19 test certificate even though the country they fly into states otherwise.

The new manual which is set to be out in November is expected to provide voluntary technical guidance with no mandates to remove quarantines. While the document does not suggest any alternatives to the widely used antigen or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 tests, it reportedly recommends the use of high sensitivity and specificity tests with more than 95% percent accuracy and reliability which would support few false positives and negatives.

Another proposal reportedly made by the document is to test passengers up to 48 hours ahead of travel but not necessarily at the airport.

While speaking to press on the contents in the new manual, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell stated that the guidebook would not be “heavy-handed” or provide a prescription for testing.