Air Canada wants feds to take "science-based" approach, ease travel restrictions

Jul 15 2020, 3:43 pm

Air Canada is asking the Canadian government to ease some of its travel restrictions which it says is impacting its “overall recovery.”

In an open letter published to the airline’s website, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jim Chung asks that blanket restrictions and quarantines be replaced with “more proportionate” restrictions to control the spread of the virus, ultimately resulting in a “measured restart of aviation.”

The letter points to other G20 countries that have already allowed more travel — including Germany, France, Italy, UK, Switzerland, Spain, and Portugal — and a report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that suggests “evidence-based, reasonable alternatives” that would serve in place of the 14-day quarantine required of any travellers who enter the country from abroad.

“Suffice it to say that the situation is becoming increasingly urgent,” Dr. Chung wrote. “Canada has made virtually no change to its quarantine restrictions since mid-March, despite continuing improvements containing the spread of the virus both in our country and in many others.”

He says the restrictions are severely impacting Air Canada and its staff while the IATA report suggests there is little evidence of in-flight transmission, citing an informal survey of 18 major airlines during early 2020. It identified four cases of suspected in-flight transmission, all from passenger to crew, and a further four episodes of apparent transmission from pilot to pilot, claiming “no instances of suspected passenger-to-passenger transmission reported by the group of airlines.”

Canada’s Quarantine Act says the government must act to determine that “no reasonable alternatives to prevent the introduction or spread of the disease are available,” through which Chung points to the processes adopted by the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The EU, which previously suspended the free movement agreements between member states, has now adopted a “phased and coordinated” approach to border passages and has recommendations on limiting contacts between passengers and transport workers, the use of personal protective equipment while travelling, as well as individual recommendations for travelling by air, rail, road, and waterways.

Chung does point out that given the high rate of infection, the company is not currently asking for an easing of US border restrictions.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the airline announced that the changing economic situation had caused it to lay off up to 60% of its workforce.

In a statement to Daily Hive at the time, Air Canada said that the situation “has forced us to reduce our schedule by 95% and, based on every indicator we have, our normal traffic levels will not be returning anytime soon.”

In a report published in May by IATA, the organization said it anticipates that global air passenger numbers will not return to normal until at least 2023.

With files from Emily Rumball

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