Testing for coronavirus has become a key aspect of air travel during the ongoing pandemic. While this measure has the good intention of limiting the spread of the virus, the cost of such tests has drawn criticism. In the face of this, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called upon the Kenyan government to reduce PCR test fees in the country.
A stalling recovery
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year saw the airline industry face an unprecedented challenge. Not only did passenger numbers fall suddenly and sharply, but there was little certainty as to when any kind of recovery might be possible.
The world of commercial aviation is now at a stage where it is showing consistent signs of such a recovery being in motion. For example, Simple Flying reported last week that Russia’s air traffic was just 4% shy of its pre-pandemic levels. In California, Ontario International (ONT) experienced a 97% overall recovery in July, with domestic traffic as high as 98%.
However, in Kenya, such a recovery is presently stalling. IATA explained last week that the country’s passenger traffic in June 2021 was 52% lower than in 2019. The first half of the year as a whole saw a 54.2% decline. IATA believes that prohibitive test costs are a key factor.
The need to reduce test costs
According to IATA, the average cost of a PCR test in Kenya is equivalent to around $80. This figure is much higher than the average cost across all African countries. IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Kamil Al Awadhi, states:
“We are urging Kenya’s government to reduce the cost of PCR tests for travelers. (…) The high cost of tests has become a major deterrent and a drag on the recovery of Kenya’s air transport and tourism sectors. An alternative solution would be to permit the use of more cost-effective antigen tests.”
It is not that passengers are against testing. A recent IATA survey found that 86% of travelers are willing to do so. However, the same survey found that 70% believe testing fees are a large obstacle, with 78% of the opinion that governments should cover these costs.
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Minimal vaccination thus far
Another obstacle to Kenya’s aviation recovery is its comparatively low vaccination rate. IATA reports that just 1.6% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated against coronavirus. Low vaccination rates are a common problem in Africa, with IATA stating that, subsequently, “the economic recovery from COVID-19 is at risk.”
Universal availability of coronavirus vaccines is set to be a key to unlocking freedom of movement for travelers in such countries. This is particularly important as proof of vaccination can play a key role in allowing people to enter certain nations. It will certainly be interesting to see how the Kenyan government responds to IATA’s appeals.
What do you make of IATA’s calls for Kenya to reduce PCR test fees? Have you found the cost of tests to be prohibitive when traveling in recent months? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.