The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on Africa and Middle East governments to go back on travel restrictions as soon as possible to save citizen livelihoods.

In a new communication on the state of aviation in the Africa and Middle East (MEA) region, the lobby has revealed that the future of many industry employees hangs by a thread due to COVID-19 shockwaves.

The report comes in the face of surging uncertainty orchestrated by the Corona Virus pandemic, where IATA has warned that many more air transport generated livelihoods are at risk than earlier feared.

The main culprits identified in the ongoing disaster distressing millions in the region are the COVID-19 containment measures, where in the air transport sector they are felt in form of travel restrictions.

IATA Vice President for Africa and the Middle East Muhammad Albakri indicated that unless urgent action is taken to redress the balance, the worst was yet to come.

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“Keeping borders closed, or imposing measures such as quarantines, that deter air travel, will result in many more livelihoods being lost and further economic shrinkage along with hardship and poverty. Governments need to do all they can to reconnect the continent safely,” he said.

Meanwhile, the data compiled together with the Air Transport Action Group shows that up to 4.5 million African jobs will be lost both in aviation and industries supported by aviation in 2020. This is well over half of the region’s 7.7 million aviation-related employment. 

However, in aviation alone, up to 172,00 jobs will be lost in 2020. This is taken to be about 40 per cent of the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region’s 440,000 aviation jobs. 

On the economic front, the picture is none the better. If anything, GDP supported by aviation in the region is expected to fall by up to Sh4 trillion (USD37 billion).

“This is 58 per cent below pre COVID-19 levels,” notes IATA.

The agency recommends that in order to minimize the impact on jobs and the broader MEA region economy, an accelerated recovery of air transport across the region was paramount.

On this, the MEA region boss observed that quarantine measures were crippling the industry’s recovery by hampering its ability to support social and economic development. IATA notes the situation is worse in Africa.

Data shows that only thirty-one countries on the continent are opening their borders to regional and international air travel. The remaining 22 countries, however, are still subjecting passengers to a mandatory 14-day quarantine. 

“This effectively stops people from travelling. IATA is calling for the systematic testing of passengers before departure. This will enable governments to safely open borders without quarantine and better support recovery efforts,” notes the lobby.