Although the worsening epidemiological situation in China - and their adamant refusal to share real-time information on its severity - are the most immediate concerns, the EASA/ECDC guidance issued today is quick to note that their guidance applies not only to China, but to any other nation/region with severe worsening of the epidemiological situation.
For now, that's just China.
But despite the popular narrative that the pandemic emergency is over, the spread and severity of COVID is both dynamic, and unpredictable, and this virus is fully capable of yielding more surprises.
You can download and read the full 10-page PDF, as I've only posted the executive summary.
Guidelines in response to the worsening of the epidemiological situation - Addendum to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol
11 Jan 2023
The measures detailed in this document are recommended to be followed by the national competent authorities, aircraft and airport operators, ground handling stakeholders and their crew members and staff to contribute to global SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance and mitigate the higher risk of infection and importation of SARS-CoV-2 from areas with severe worsening of the epidemiological situation such as it is currently the case in China. The duration of applicability of the document is temporary in nature and should be aligned with the risk assessment of the epidemiological situation performed by ECDC and WHO.
This document provides operational recommendations regarding the implementation of a set of measures that has been agreed by the Member States in the context of a precautionary approach to potential severe worsening of the COVID-19 epidemiological situation as described in the Council Recommendation (EU) 2022/2548 and are further outlined in this addendum.
The measures as per the IPCR decision of 4 January 2023 are as follows:
National Aviation Authorities, ground handling service providers, and aircraft and airport operators should give proper consideration to the recommendations of the latest version of the EASA/ECDC Aviation Health Safety Protocol.
- Airports and operators to recommend the wearing of medical masks or respirators to passengers and crew on flights to and from areas with severe worsening of the epidemiological situation such as it is currently the case in China
- Airports and operators to recommend the implementation of enhanced personal hygiene and health measures for both travellers and aircraft and airport personnel
- Following the decision of the Member States, aircraft operators to introduce, for all passengers departing from areas with severe worsening of the epidemiological situation such as it is currently the case in China to Member States, the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test taken not more than 48 hours (RADTs) or 72 hours (NAATs) prior to departure from such areas, and in line with ICAO standards for testing (operators having the responsibility to check pre-departure testing before onboarding)
- Guidance to facilitate the random testing of passengers arriving from areas with severe worsening of the epidemiological situation such as it is currently the case in China in the Member States, as appropriate, and recommending liaising with the health authorities for sequencing of all positive results
- Airport operators and ground handling agents operating at airports with international flights to support local health authorities in sampling wastewater from airports and aircraft with a particular focus on the direct flights arriving from areas with severe worsening of the epidemiological situation such as it is currently the case in China
This document is part of the EU package in response to the severe worsening of the epidemiological situation along with the “Ad-hoc guidance for the sampling of aircraft and airport wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 surveillance1" published by the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) and with the “Targeted genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 among travellers in response to a worsening or unknown epidemiological situation in a third country” published by ECDC. The document, its observations, recommendations and conclusions are provided in the context of EU policy recommendations proposed by the EU MS as part of the IPCR Operational Conclusions and the Health Security Committee (HSC) Opinion and reflect best knowledge available at the time of writing, as compiled and analysed by experts at European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Commission services.
Depending on the evolution of the pandemic and future evidence and developments, in terms of risk assessment criteria, testing technologies or the evolution of vaccines, this document may require updating which may prompt further assessment by the Member States in their implementation efforts. The EU Integrated Political Crisis Response Arrangements (IPCR) will regularly review its recommendations to the Member States starting with mid-January and an update of the IPCR recommendations may also impact the recommendation defined in this document.