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Airlines say nations overreacted to Omicron variant

12/08/2021 | 10:17am EST
FILE PHOTO: The International Air Transport Association holds its Annual General Meeting in Boston

PARIS (Reuters) -Global airlines blasted governments on Wednesday for worsening the Omicron scare through snap border measures and "rip-off" virus testing regimes, and urged politicians to let travellers make their own decisions based on scientific data.

Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association, predicted "knee-jerk" border restrictions resulting from the coronavirus variant would ease soon, but it was too early to say whether holiday travel would be disrupted.

"We can't shut down everything when a new variant appears," Walsh told a news briefing, adding hasty travel bans had penalised countries like South Africa for reporting findings.

However, he predicted the latest health emergency would be short-lived and said it would not impact IATA forecasts which predict a return of air travel to pre-crisis levels from 2024.

Walsh said competition authorities should investigate the prices charged for COVID-19 tests which in some cases bore no relation to their true cost.

Britain's competition watchdog said in August it would help the government take action against COVID-19 testing companies if it found they were breaching consumer law, amid concerns about the price and reliability of PCR travel tests in the country.

"I hope governments and competition regulators step in and stop consumers being ripped off," Walsh said. "I do think we need to understand how that has happened and where all the money (has) gone."

(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Louise Heavens and Jan Harvey)


ę Reuters 2021
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