The European and North Atlantic Office (EUR/NAT) outlined the steps ICAO and its regional offices have taken on COVID-19 crisis response to facilitate a collaborative approach for restarting air travel: they have followed the advice from the World Health Organization, National Health Organizations and have shared regular updates through the CAPSCA network to ensure sound decision-making; they have requested and received input from member states and stakeholders as the pandemic evolved allowing ICAO Headquarters to issue several States letters, information and guidance material to facilitate a harmonized approach and, they have made sure to include in the consultation processes all stakeholders, including States, Regional Organizations and Industry.
Speaking at the IATA Air Transport Industry Restart Regional Summit Europe teleconference, EUR/NAT Regional Director, Silvia Gehrer said: "The ICAO approach is the only global and collaborative approach to overcome the unfolding challenges, in a harmonized and coordinated way. The valuable input received from all stakeholders to date has allowed ICAO to facilitate a harmonized approach on humanitarian/ relief and repatriation flights, transport of essential supplies on air cargo flights, crewmembers positioning, emergency medical flights or medical evacuation flights, NOTAM templates, facilitation of the availability of alternate aerodromes and mitigation measures for current safety operation challenges."
Moving forward, ICAO is maximizing coordination between States to restart air travel with various initiatives. Silvia Gehrer continued: "ICAO is taking a coordination role in the global recovery effort. There is regular coordination via the COVID 19 Technical meetings with UN organizations, ICAO regional offices, regional organizations, and industry. The ICAO Council proposed the establishment of a Task Force/core group consisting of industry, ICAO, Council members and other relevant UN bodies to drive the overall coordination."
In addition to this initiative, one of the concrete recent outcomes is the development of the "Public Health Corridor" framework. This is done via the CAPSCA program. The key elements are the use of "clean" crew, "clean" aircraft and "clean" airport facilities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 .This strategy will be extended in a stepwise approach to other operations, to restart aviation travel and to achieve normal operations within the shortest possible time.
The EUR/NAT Office is proactively reaching out to the 56 States and Stakeholders in the region to optimize the flow of information. "We need regular updates on needs, initiatives and plans for recovery. We organize teleconferences with all States and specific focused meetings with groups of States. The varied regulatory environment makes it challenging, but this is why we are here. We are here to ensure that sharing of information flows from States, ICAO, regional organizations and industry in order to guarantee a coordinated regional perspective", said Ms. Gehrer in her closing remarks.
The EUR/NAT office will continue organizing additional focused meetings for groups of States that need further support. All meetings organized are part of a series of initiatives the EUR/NAT Office is currently undertaking to enhance the outreach and support at this time of crisis and for the imminent requirement to gather their input on recovery planning moving forward.