Below is our assessment of the key points from the European Commission’s recent “Guidelines on restoration of transport services and connectivity”.
- Restrictive measures should be “limited, in scope and duration, to what is necessary to protect public health”. Coordination and cooperation between Member States and with third countries is crucial.
- The risk cannot be eliminated, but only mitigated: thus, we need to target risk sources.
- Clear rules and legal frameworks for transport operators and service providers are needed, especially for situations where they have to refuse boarding for health safety reasons. Facilities should be provided with protocols for isolating suspected COVID-19 cases.
- Protect transport workers by providing them with personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Protect passengers, by ensuring that physical distancing is respected, reducing the density of passengers throughout the journey, setting up “dedicated lanes or otherwise separating different passenger flows at transport hubs”, informing passengers on safe behaviours, and minimising contacts at boarding and security checks. Avoid crowding of passengers at “check-in, loading and unloading of luggage”.
- Passengers should wear face masks, especially where physical distancing cannot be observed at all times. Provide passengers with information on safe procedures and with personal protective equipment.
- Prioritise and improve cleaning and disinfection both at transport hubs and on vehicles. Make hand sanitising gel available. Improve ventilation systems.
- Favour a contactless environment, electronic and automatic procedures for ticketing, check-in, reservation, and registration. Facilitate the pre-ordering of onboard services.
- Contact tracing apps could be used by passengers, and “as an additional layer of risk mitigation”, on a voluntary Access to transport services should not be made subject to their use.
- We need to be able to identify and alert those who were in proximity of a passenger who falls sick or shows COVID-19 symptoms during or immediately after travelling.
- These measures should in no way reduce the existing high levels of safety and security.
The Commission also puts forward more practical guidance “on specific measures to ensure safe passenger transport”. Specific to aviation:
- Managing the risk of spread of COVID-19 “should follow the same principles used for safety and security risk management”. However, health screening decisions on passengers “should be implemented by the competent authorities”, as airports and airlines are not qualified to provide health services.
- There is a need to develop international standards based on shared principles to ensure mutual acceptance of measures at the point of departure and arrival. Without this, travel would become “overly cumbersome or even impossible”.
- The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) together with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will publish technical operational guidelines in the next weeks to set out a baseline aviation health safety protocol aimed at assisting all aviation stakeholders. The protocol will include guidelines to strengthen ventilation, limit contamination risk along the travel process, reduce movement in the cabin, adequately manage passenger flows and passenge.