The International Air Transport Association (IATA) today applauded the resolve of ASEAN leaders to take extensive measures to control the outbreak of SARS.

Public health experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) and elsewhere have said that rigorous pre-departure screening of air passengers is an effective means of ensuring that SARS does not travel from one country to another. It also reduces the risk of onboard transmission of the virus. IATA has been advised by WHO that only five cases of probable transmission on board an aircraft have occurred, and this was before implementation of screening procedures began.

Standardization is essential for screening processes to be effective. The airline industry stands ready to assist governments in this process. “We must avoid the post-September 11 situation where governments unilaterally created a quagmire of uncoordinated regulation that has been rationalized over time by working with the industry. We don’t have the luxury of time so we need to get the industry-government coordination right from the start,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

The ASEAN leaders agreed to meet in the Philippines to further discuss implementation of screening procedures at airports. Representing over 270 airlines, IATA offered its assistance and experience to the governments of ASEAN in this important initiative.

“Governments and industry must work closely. Public health officials are expert on what needs to be done. Airlines and airports stand ready to ensure that the implementation of procedures is both efficient and effective,” said Bisignani.