Omicron restrictions must not put supply chains at risk

7 January 2022

International transport organisations and unions representing road, air and sea transport have come together to warn world leaders that their “knee-jerk reactions” to the Omicron variant are putting the global supply chain at greater risk of collapse.

IATA (the International Air Transport Association), ICS (the International Chamber of Shipping), IRU (the International Road Transport Union) and ITF (the International Transport Workers’ Federation) have urged governments not to reimpose border restrictions that further limit the freedom of movement of international transport workers.

Governments must learn the lessons of the last two years, the group said, and cross-border transport workers including seafarers, air crew and drivers must be able to continue to do their jobs, and cross borders without overly restrictive travel rules, to keep already ailing supply chains moving.

Within a week of the World Health Organization (WHO) designating the new Omicron strain of Covid-19 as a “variant of concern”, at least 56 countries reimposed varying degrees of travel restrictions.

The transport bodies, which represent more than $20 trillion of world trade annually and 65 million global transport workers across the supply chain, have called for an end to this “rushed and fragmented” approach to travel rules by governments.

IRU Secretary General, Umberto de Pretto, said: “Truck drivers are again caught in the middle and paying a heavy price in simply doing their job to keep global supply chains functioning. They, and all of us who rely on their service, deserve much better.”

He welcomed the news that the WHO and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have formed an Action Group to ensure freedom of movement for international transport workers.

Plans are underway to institute a “Yellow Card” style covid document, issued by the WHO, to be used by transport workers as proof of vaccination.