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Swine Flu Outbreak Update: 11-May-09: Ecuador lifts travel restrictions on Mexico: ALTA

Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA) commended (05-May-09) Ecuador in its decision to remove travel restrictions between Ecuador and Mexico. The association and its member airlines are calling on authorities of Peru, Argentina and Cuba to do the same and stop their unilateral restrictions contrary to WHO and ICAO recommendations against restricting travel.

ALTA (Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association) commends the Director General de Aviacin Civil of Ecuador in its decision (08-May-09) to remove travel restrictions between Ecuador and Mexico. The association and its member airlines are calling on authorities of Peru, Argentina and Cuba to do the same and stop their unilateral restrictions contrary to WHO and ICAO recommendations against restricting travel.

ALTA’s Executive Director Alex de Gunten said, “We would like to thank Ecuador for lifting the travel restrictions between Ecuador and Mexico. We commend them in this first step and encourage them to implement only measures that are in line with the WHO and ICAO recommendations as they are the global experts on this issue.”
 
“At the same time, we continue to be very concerned about the unilateral actions other countries in the region, specifically, Peru, Argentina and Cuba, are still imposing. These restrictions not only go against the WHO and ICAO recommendations, but are negatively impacting travelers and citizens who want to return to their countries, and are also negative to the economic well being of countries in the region. We ask these countries to reconsider their current position and lift their travel restrictions in accordance with WHO and ICAO recommendations.”
 
ALTA also points to an ICAO bulletin published yesterday encouraging a harmonized response and detailing standardized procedures. ALTA underscores that ICAO is coordinating an international effort to bring together expertise from the WHO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Airports Council International (ACI) in order to develop guidelines for States that will assist in their preparedness planning. ICAO gained experience in developing such guidelines during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003. Guidelines for States have been agreed to and are now available. They are based on the WHO International Health Regulations.
 
As reiterated again by the WHO, there is no rationale for travel restriction and the organization advises there should be no restrictions to travel or closure of borders. De Gunten said, “ALTA and our member airlines strongly support the WHO’s recommendations and the initiatives they are implementing to educate the public on how to protect themselves rather than non-effective restrictions on flights or closing borders. Passenger safety and well being are of utmost importance and our focus at this time is a coordinated effort under the guidance of the WHO. A great deal of precaution is being taken and airlines are prepared. Travel and aviation is a safe industry. We continue to ask these countries to reconsider their decisions and adhere to the WHO guidelines.”