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Top House Democrats seek GAO study on risk of Covid in air travel

TWO top Democrats on the House Committee on Transportation have requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct studies into the risk of air travel during a public health crisis, reports the Washington Post

07 December 2020 - 04:54
TWO top Democrats on the House Committee on Transportation have requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct studies into the risk of air travel during a public health crisis, reports the Washington Post.

Passenger aircraft bellyholds provide between 45 and 50 per cent of air cargo capacity. Thus, further restrictions on air travel directly affect the freight sector.



Committee chairman, Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, and Washington Congressman Rick Larsen, also chairman of the aviation subcommittee, said more work is needed to better understand how the coronavirus can spread through air travel.



The aviation industry has been among those hit hardest by the crisis, which has grounded tens of thousands of flights and reduced passenger traffic to a trickle.



The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that airlines will suffer a net loss of US$118.5 billion in 2020, up from a previous estimate of $84.2 billion.



Messrs DeFazio and Larsen said that they are aware of the pandemic's effect on the industry but that the risks of air travel at such a time cannot be ignored.



'Unfortunately, these losses do not negate the fact that air travel, more than any other mode of transportation, has the greatest potential to carry this disease from one part of the world to another,' they wrote in a letter this month to Gene Dodaro, comptroller general of the United States.



The pair said that until a vaccine is widely available, 'reducing the spread of Covid-19 through air travel and revitalising the US airline industry will depend in large part on a better understanding of how diseases, particularly those that are airborne, spread through air travel and identifying technologies and practices that can help mitigate disease transmission.'



The lawmakers requested that the GAO conduct three studies: one that examines research by government, academics and the airline industry on disease transmission via air travel; another that looks at the roles and responsibilities of local, state and federal authorities as well as those of airports, airlines and their contractors; and a third that assesses the measures the industry has put in place in response to the coronavirus.


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