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Rapid Testing Safe Enough for Flying, Says IATA

Rapid Testing Safe Enough for Flying, Says IATA

A report sponsored by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has found that rapid antigen tests are sound enough for the safe and efficient resumption of air travel. Research by OXERA and Edge Health has found that the quick tests are accurate, convenient and cost-efficient, prompting IATA to call on governments to introduce them ahead of a restart of international travel.

The OXERA-Edge Health report, commissioned by IATA, found that antigen tests are:

  • Accurate: The best antigen tests provide broadly comparable results to PCR tests in accurately identifying infected travelers. The BinaxNOW antigen test, for example, misses just one positive case in 1000 travellers (based on an infection rate of 1 per cent among travellers). And it has similarly comparable performance to PCR tests in levels of false negatives.
  • Convenient: Processing times for antigen tests are 100 times faster than for PCR testing
  • Cost-efficient: Antigen tests are, on average, 60% cheaper than PCR tests.

“Restarting international aviation will energise the economic recovery from COVID-19. Along with vaccines, testing will play a critical role in giving governments the confidence to re-open their borders to travellers. For governments, the top priority is accuracy. But travellers will also need tests to be convenient and affordable. The OXERA-Edge Health report tells us that the best-in-class antigen tests can tick all these boxes. It’s important for governments to consider these findings as they make plans for a re-start,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

IATA has criticised the fragmented nature of current testing protocols, which they say is confusing to travellers. Many governments don’t allow antigen tests, but PCR tests come at “with significant costs disadvantages and inconvenience. And in some parts of the world, PCR testing capacity is limited, with first priority correctly given to clinical use,” according to IATA.

(Photo by Mika Baumeister)

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Fionn Davenport is the editor-in-chief of the ITTN group, including ITTN and ITTN Ireland. He's one of Ireland's best-known travel journalists and writers, with nearly 30 years' experience writing guidebooks for Lonely Planet and others.

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