Travel body calls vaccine requirement discriminatory

PARIS (Reuters) – Requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for international travel is akin to workplace discrimination and should be rejected, the head of the World Travel and Tourism Council said on Monday.

“We should never require the vaccination to get a job or to travel,” said the industry body’s Chief Executive Gloria Guevara, speaking on a Reuters Next conference panel.

As governments race to deploy vaccinations and stem the coronavirus pandemic, some policymakers have suggested immunisation should be necessary for air travel. Qantas Airways has said it plans to introduce such a requirement.

“I totally disagree with the approach from Qantas,” said Guevara, whose organisation represents a sector accounting for as much as 10% of global employment. “If you require the vaccination before travel, that takes us to discrimination.”

Airline safety protocols and on-board air filtration meant passengers had “less chance to get COVID in a plane (than) in a supermarket,” she added. “We need to protect vulnerable groups and prioritize the vaccination for them.”

Guevara’s comments contrasted with a majority of online panel viewers, who supported a vaccine requirement according to a snap poll by conference organisers. But she drew support from AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, who said global testing protocols remained key to unlocking travel.

Fernandes said he was nonetheless “pessimistic” about countries’ readiness to accept each other’s tests and certificates, with many Asian states also likely to require vaccinations.

“There’s a massive lack of trust out there right now,” Fernandes said. “Countries will say, ‘Is that PCR test really done to our standards?’ Governments are becoming incredibly nationalistic.”

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(Reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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