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A lack of common travel protocols could cost the world trillions of dollars, Dubai Airports CEO says

Countries have not yet come to a consensus on how to safely restart travel amid the coronavirus crisis, and this could cost the global economy trillions of dollars, according to the chief executive of Dubai Airports.

“We don’t have an agreed testing procedure for a reliable, accurate and scalable test, and that needs to happen,” Paul Griffiths told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Monday.

“Secondly, there’s no harmonization between the control measures and the need to have a quarantine regime that is both effective and non-intrusive,” he said. Dubai Airports owns Dubai International and Dubai World Central Airports in the United Arab Emirates.

The aviation industry has been hammered by the outbreak of the coronavirus, with air travel coming close to a complete halt as countries closed borders to slow the spread of the virus.

Some markets have since reopened, but with differing measures in place.

The coordination of three things — testing, travel protocol and quarantines — is the “essential next step to be able to get the world moving again,” Griffiths said.

“The big problem at the moment is globally, governments are looking at risk elimination,” he said. “My view is, we’re never going to get there.”

Instead, he added, countries should be managing risk and striking a balance between safety and kick-starting the global economy.

A tourist walks through the terminal 3 of Dubai airport in the United Arab Emirates on July 8, 2020.

Giuseppe Cacace | AFP | Getty Images

Griffiths said governments were not focused on the economic and social benefits of managing the virus in a practical way. “That needs to change if we are going to get anywhere with getting back to some form of normal life which we are all desperate to achieve.”

Asked about the cost to the global economy if travel remains in limbo, he said: “I think we’re running into tens of trillions of dollars already.”

On the other hand, the global price tag for rectifying the situation is “just tiny” by comparison, he added.

“If we could get a group of likeminded people together to harmonize those three simple steps of a proper harmonized quarantine, testing and travel protocol, and just agree what their standards are … you are talking a fraction of the damage that’s being done to the economy globally,” Griffiths said.

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