Antigen testing as standard can unlock travel this summer, an Iata-commissioned study has concluded.
Research by advisory firm Oxera and consultants Edge Health claims quarantine is unnecessary “if widespread testing is adopted”.
The study recommends antigen tests as the most favoured option.
“Antigen tests are cost-effective, require little specialist equipment, and can deliver results quickly,” the study said.
Antigen tests are typically 60% cheaper than PCR tests, however the study admits antigen tests “are slightly less sensitive” than PCR.
“PCR testing detects 72% of infectious days, compared with 65% for a LAMP test and 63% for an antigen test.
However, the difference in performance narrows considerably in tests administered three days after arrival, with PCR testing detecting 79% of infectious days, compared to 75% for antigen testing.”
Modelling by Oxera and Edge Health also revealed antigen testing “is as effective as a 10-day quarantine period, when compliance with quarantine is taken into consideration”. It said tests carried out the day before departure would be effective and avoid logjams at airports.
It added PCR was unsuitable for airport testing, with a median time of 28 hours to receive results.
“Antigen tests are cheaper, can deliver results within 20 minutes, are easy to administer and do not require laboratory equipment.”
Iata director general Alexandre de Juniac said: “Testing requirements are currently fragmented, which is confusing to travellers. Moreover, many governments do not allow rapid testing.
“If the only options available for travellers are PCR tests, these come with significant costs disadvantages and inconvenience. And in some parts of the world, PCR testing capacity is limited, with first priority correctly given to clinical use.
“Travellers need options. Including antigen testing among acceptable tests will certainly give strength to the recovery. The EU’s specification of acceptable antigen tests offers a good baseline for wider international harmonisation of acceptable standards.”