Trump considering testing passengers on international flights for coronavirus
04/30/2020 // Arsenio Toledo // Views

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday (April 28) that his administration is heavily considering conducting COVID-19 tests on passengers on international flights. The country would focus on flights that are coming out of “areas that are heavily infected,” he said at a White House event. His administration is said to be working with airlines to execute this plan, which could begin “in the very near future.”

Trump further said that they haven't determined whether the testing would be done by the federal government or by the airlines themselves. “Maybe it's a combination of both,” he said.

Trump also suggested that Brazil might be one of the countries “getting to that category” of being a coronavirus hot spot.

New safety measures for airports

Gary Kelly, chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines, said that his company is in talks with the Trump administration, as well as members of Congress, about protocols that their airline can set up. He added that an industry trade group was leading the effort to advocate for coronavirus screenings at airports.

“Some kind of screening makes sense,” said Kelly, “and I think to get people flying again, they need to be comfortable, and I think that's one way to provide additional comfort.”

Earlier this year, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the United States, airports began screening passengers arriving from China. However, only a handful of passengers were quarantined. (Related: The coronavirus is likely 56 to 100 times MORE DEADLY than the flu; any attempt to end the lockdowns without precautions will result in catastrophe.)


As of press time, five officers from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have succumbed to COVID-19, with 500 more officers testing positive at airports across the United States. The fact that so many TSA officers are contracting coronavirus shows the dire need for airports around the world to begin rolling out strong coronavirus measures before considering reopening all businesses.

To avoid further deaths from COVID-19, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association of airlines all over the world, is urging for new safety measures to be implemented to help restart global air travel while allowing airlines to remain economically viable.

Alexandre de Juniac, Director General of the IATA, is working closely with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an agency of the United Nations, to develop a new set of safety guidelines that can help boost international travel once coronavirus restrictions begin easing up. Their new policies would follow guidelines set by the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that stipulates that everybody on the plane must wear a face mask.

Airlines and airports already working to implement coronavirus measures

Other airlines are planning to implement coronavirus measures as well. Emirates, the state-owned airline of the United Arab Emirates, is planning to give its passengers blood tests to check for antibodies that will reveal whether or not a passenger has been exposed to the virus. Etihad Airways, another airline of the UAE, has begun setting up kiosks in airports that can monitor passengers' temperatures, heart rates and respiratory rates.

Hong Kong International Airport became the world's first airport to introduce mandatory testing for COVID-19. Passengers from high-risk areas such as the U.K. and the Hubei province in China -- the epicenter of the global pandemic -- have to take rapid tests, the results from which are made available after eight hours.

Passengers arriving from areas with less catastrophic coronavirus outbreaks will also be tested, but afterward can be sent home to wait for the results there. Furthermore, even if these passengers test negative, they will still be required to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Air traffic around the world is down by more than 90 percent. Many airlines and airports have started losing a lot of money since the start of the pandemic. It is likely that they will continue to do so until they figure out ways to get passengers to start flying again.

These screening measures being rolled out by airlines and airports all over the world are a step in the right direction, but more still needs to be done, especially since scientists have casted doubts on several measures, such as thermal screening, which is found to be inaccurate.

Jeanine Pommier of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has argued that, instead of thermal or symptom screening, airports should require passengers to go through rapid testing, as well as identifying and monitoring anyone who has come into close contact with them.

Furthermore, quarantine measures must be established, as self-isolating is proven to be very effective. Along with that, providing people with basic health information is also useful. If passengers were to receive a pamphlet warning them about the symptoms of COVID-19, it could help people who feel like they contracted the virus to figure out what to do next.

The global coronavirus pandemic is a serious concern. As of press time, there are over 3.1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world, with over a million of those cases coming from the United States.

With strong and scientifically backed health screening measures, airports may be able to start back up again once the period of heavy lockdowns and restrictions ends.

Sources include:

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