The World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa and International Air Transport Association (IATA) have called on governments to refrain from making vaccination mandatory condition for international travel.
The two organisations say making vaccination a pre-requisite for travel will deepen inequities and discrimination against countries and regions that have difficulties vaccinating their citizens.
The availability and pace of vaccination is uneven across the world, with Africa being the worst affected. The aviation industry has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry has seen huge financial losses totaling over $7 billion in the past year, along with massive job losses.
The business disruptions in the sector have led to eight African airlines filing for bankruptcy. IATA says it has worked with different stakeholders to try and save the industry on the continent from total collapse.
The organisation says complications faced by the industry include stringent travel restrictions and requirements that are inconsistent between different countries and are continually changed.
Kamil Alawadi from International Air Transport Association says: “We are hoping that the African countries, or the African aviation, start up as soon as possible. What we would like to see is government, stakeholders, regulatory authorities and the airlines working together to start up aviation once again. There is no reason for all these restrictions, preventing aviation from restarting in Africa at all.”
The World Health Organisation says providing proof of vaccination as a prerequisite for travel may increase inequities and discrimination especially as there is a short supply of vaccines.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, says: “While it’s important to secure borders and keep COVID-19 from spreading, this must be done equitably. African people must not face more restrictions because they are unable to access vaccines. We are seeing different responses internationally. In a rapid who survey to which 45 African countries responded, air travel is open in all countries, land and sea ports is open in 37 countries and only Mauritius is requiring proof of vaccination for international visitors”
Africa has so far recorded more than 5.3 million COVID cases with a 138 000 lives lost due to the pandemic.
The WHO says it is incredibly worried that the third wave is spreading fast and threatens to be the worst experienced by Africa and is stretching health systems across the continent.