Since December 2019 an outbreak of a new type of coronavirus was identified in the province of Hubei, China. Since that time the evolution of the outbreak was very rapid reaching out to the most of the countries worldwide. Consequently the outbreak was declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) on the 30th of January and further characterised as a pandemic on 11th of March. Since mid-February a cluster was identified in Europe leading to pan-European outbreaks which led to full disruption of the European Aviation.
In this context EASA has developed, issued and updated a Safety Information Bulletin to provide operational recommendations for the European stakeholders in accordance with the official communications of WHO and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) as well as facilitating access to guidance developed by other stakeholders (e.g. IATA, ACI, EU Healthy Gateways, etc.) in order to ensure the safety of passengers and crew members.
Furthermore, on 13th of March, EASA issued two Safety Directives (SD) one for the EASA Member States and the other for the third country operators performing commercial air transport of passengers into, within or out of the territory subject to the provisions of the Treaty on European Union. The SDs mandate the disinfection of aircraft arriving from the high risk areas, as defined and updated in Annex 1 to the SD in collaboration with the Member States, in order to protect the passengers against secondary contamination, and equip the aircraft with one or more Universal Precaution Kits (UPK’s). During the consultation of the SD as well as after the publication EASA received several questions on protection of crew members and in particular quarantine management for crew members operating in high risk areas. EASA SDs 2020-01 and 2020-02 were superseded by EASA SDs 2020-03 and, respectively, 2020-04, mandating the cleaning and disinfection before each flight longer than 6 hours, after identifying a suspect case on board and at least once every 24 hours for aircraft operators involved in commercial air transport of passengers performing flights that are less than 6 hours
Furthermore, it was reported to EASA that several operators (cargo and passenger transport) had their crew members placed in quarantine for 14 days after a short stopover in areas considered as high risk by the national public health authorities although they did not leave the aircraft during the respective stopover. Consequently, this guide is intended to provide guidance on the preventive measures that operators should implement in order to demonstrate to the national public health authorities in their Member State or other States that action has been taken to minimize the epidemiological risks and, this way, to avoid having their crews being quarantined by the public health authorities during stopover/layovers or on return from areas with high epidemiological risk.
In this context the European Commission has adopted on 26.03.2020 the Guidelines: Facilitating Air Cargo Operations during COVID-19 outbreak (European Commission, 2020), which includes a number of operational measures for the Member States to facilitate air cargo transport.
Consequently, EASA has developed and updated the following guidance providing details in regard to the measures recommended for the operators and NAAs regarding the crew members operating in high risk areas. Although the development of this guide was triggered by the events as presented above, it is, at the same time useful practices to be implemented for the protection of the crew members and limiting the dissemination of the virus through air travel.
This guide should be considered by the NAAs and the aircraft operators in synergy with the recommendations of WHO, ECDC and national public health authorities in regard to the management of contacts, suspected and confirmed cases.
Please note that this guide should be seen as guidance material and an example of good practices to be implemented to the extent possible, depending on the aircraft configuration, by the operators that do not have a procedure agreed with their national public health authorities and it is in no way binding to any operator or Member State.
At all times the decision of the national public health authorities will prevail in regard to the recommendations made in this guide.