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Hasty action by governments of great concern, says AAPA

14 Apr 2003

In a statement issued today, the Director General of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) said that governments must not act in an arbitrary or counterproductive fashion in reaction to the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

He continued:
"The spread of SARS has created the worst ever situation faced by the airlines of the Asia Pacific region. People have stopped traveling either as an individual reaction to the possibility of contracting the disease, or as a result of warnings put out by the health authorities. Unlike a war situation or an economic downturn, the malaise is very focused on certain countries and cities and the airlines operating from and to those destinations are suffering disproportionately. Having said that, even airlines based thousands of miles away from the epicenter have also been hit extremely hard."

"In this situation, unprecedented in its nature and severity, airlines are taking every possible measure to minimise the risk of SARS being spread more widely across frontiers. Many of these measures have been implemented based on the advice and guidance of local health authorities and the World Health Organisation (WHO)."

"More recognition, however, should be given by governments to these meticulous efforts. Governments in Asia and their agencies must adopt a more co-ordinated, mutually agreed and mutually acceptable policy on the handling of suspected cases of SARS among passengers."

"They should not adopt arbitrary measures, in particular, blanket embargoes on the entry of passengers from specific countries and territories. Nor should they adopt other unhelpful measures, such as demands for health certificates, refusal to accept suspected cases on arrival and quarantining aircraft and passengers for lengthy periods on the strength of flimsy evidence and unsubstantiated rumour."

Added Richard Stirland:
"Such measures could to lead to retaliatory action by other governments and unnecessary inconvenience and confusion among travelers. In addition, they can and indeed have led to the suspension of air services which are vital to those passengers for whom travel is essential. This in turn will result in a prolongation of the financial and economic consequences of SARS, without measurably curtailing either the spread or the duration of the outbreak."

"Undoubtedly, the essential resilience and dynamism of Asia and its airlines will enable them to recover eventually from this severe blow to their growth and financial success. But co-operation, co-ordination and burden-sharing by governments and health authorities and everybody involved in combating SARS are of overriding importance. This will ensure a more rapid recovery to a state of normality, the retention of Asia¡¦s unique network of airline services, and a full contribution by the airlines to Asia¡¦s future prosperity," concluded the Director General.

About the AAPA
The AAPA is a grouping of 17 scheduled international airlines based in the Asia-Pacific region. It is the trade association of the region's airlines, created to represent their interests and to provide a forum for all members to exchange information and views on matters of common concern. For more information about the AAPA, please visit the web site at www.AAPAirlines.org.

The 17 members comprises Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airlines, China Airlines, Dragonair, EVA Air, Garuda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Philippines Airlines, Qantas Airways, Royal Brunei Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways International and Vietnam Airlines.
For further information, please contact:
Ms Usha Veeriah
Executive Assistant to the Director General
Tel : 603-2145 5600
Fax : 603- 2145 2500
email : ushav@aapa.org.my