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ICAO promotes COVID-19-free public health corridors to keep vital air cargo moving

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ICAO is encouraging the establishment of special COVID-19-free Public Health Corridors (PHCs) to address the “extensive and varied” country-to-country border restrictions now in place due to national pandemic measures.

In an attachment and appendix to its latest bulletin, issued under the authority of ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu, the UN aviation agency underscored to national governments that current disruptions to international air movements have “severely disrupted the global aviation network, including the transport of essential items such as medical supplies and food.”

To keep supply lines open, and access to needed supplies better assured, the ICAO Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA) has recommended that PHCs be established where COVID-19-free or ‘clean’ crew,  aircraft, airport facilities, and passengers can continue to undertake their urgently-needed work. Guidance relating specifically to flight crew conducting essential cargo operations is appended in this ICAO bulletin.

Further PHC provisions in aid of humanitarian, repatriation, and scheduled passenger operations will be developed within the scope of ICAO’s Council Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART), in collaboration with aviation industry and public health authorities.

The ICAO PHC concept is COVID-19 specific and has been developed using a risk-based approach, taking relevant safety management principles and all relevant World Health Organization (WHO) and aviation sector pandemic guidance into account. The PHC will be regularly reviewed and updated based on the latest COVID-19 data available, and was introduced by ICAO in a recent webinar.

Given the lack of a vaccine and definitive treatment for COVID-19, and persisting limitations on testing and resources, the ICAO bulletin notes that while the risk of contracting COVID-19 during air travel cannot yet be completely eliminated, the risk to crew and passengers can be significantly mitigated by PHC measures.