Aer Lingus appeared before the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response on 28 July, and rather than read the full details of that submission again, I am happy to forward it in its entirety to the members of the committee. When attending the committee in July, we outlined the catastrophic effect the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the aviation sector. As early as this morning, the IATA has predicted that airlines will globally burn through $77 billion of cash this winter. We also outlined the critical importance of the aviation sector for the Irish economy.
Prior to this crisis, we enjoyed unprecedented levels of international connectivity. It was the envy of other countries, cities and markets throughout the world. It allowed a number of things to happen in the Irish economy. It allowed business to be done internationally and significant foreign direct investment to take place. Key business and service sectors, such as technology, software, pharmaceutical, medical, finance and food and beverage, depend on this connectivity, and of course legions of small businesses throughout the country depend on inbound tourism brought to the country by the aviation sector. We also should not forget the ability of friends and relatives who are based and dispersed internationally to connect and come home to visit their loved ones. Aviation provides this connectivity. The grim reality is this connectivity is gone and there is no sight as to when it will return.
In July, we outlined the recommendations of the final report of the aviation recovery task force. It was published on 10 July. Three months later, none of the key recommendations have been implemented. In July, we also outlined how we have the most restrictive travel policy in Europe. Effectively, Ireland is closed for business and this will have a profound impact on jobs and the Irish economy. We were encouraged on 15 September, when the Government said it would adopt the framework for free movement as proposed by the European Commission, but on 17 September, 24 September and 1 October the Government's policy on the green list rowed in exactly the opposite direction to that outlined by the European Commission. As it stands today, we are more closed for business than ever before. We are where we were in July when we said we were in the unfortunate position of having the most restrictive travel policy in Europe but having done the least to support the aviation sector thus far. While we do see a change in approach being signalled and we welcome it, so far it has not been delivered.
I will now turn to the specific items on which Aer Lingus was asked to address the committee. I will first speak about the European Commission's proposal. It is referred to as the traffic light system and for the convenience of committee members we have included in the appendix of our submission an illustration of what adoption of the proposal would look like. We should, if we adopt it in its entirety, have 16 countries open for travel today instead of the four we do have. To be clear, the approach recommends we do not have travel restrictions for green and orange coded countries and areas. Hence, we should not restrict movement or quarantine on arrival. For passengers coming from red areas, the European Commission proposes that quarantine and movement restrictions are replaced by the introduction of a testing regime for passengers. This is what alignment with the framework looks like, and this alignment needs to be complete if the adoption of the traffic light system will make any difference to the prospects for aviation. As we outlined, we are very keen to ensure international travel is increased safely, but I encourage the committee to move with speed to adopt this framework. I am concerned that what we will get on 13 October will be nowhere near close to full adoption, based on the commentary we just heard in the previous session.
We believe there are a number of issues to be examined and not just testing and travel restrictions when considering how safe it is to travel. We have pre-travel health declarations. We have the use of face masks.
We have enhanced cleaning on the aircraft. We have state-of-the-art air filtration and electronic passenger locator forms. We can link our Covid tracker app to other jurisdictions and create complete coverage of contact tracing for everyone who travels internationally. That, coupled with the protocols the EU has outlined, and the advancements in rapid testing, could create a situation where international travel will be much safer and have much lower risks of transmission than we see in the broader community.
Rapid testing has been debated at length. I thought I would speak about it again in the context of the multilayered approach for this management that we spoke about. We need to bring a testing protocol into Ireland. We need to make sure that it is aligned with the EU framework and that it enables the lifting of restrictions. Again, we need to be clear that the testing framework should only apply to red countries. There are a number of ways in which we could do this. The European Commission proposal also needs to take into account some of the work done by Airlines for Europe and IATA, which looked at this and issued a publication on 1 October. The first is that we could have a test certified by a health regulator, made in advance of travel, involving something around the 72-hour window. The second is that we would look at a rapid test at the airport premises, preferably before entering the terminal. The third is that we would have a rapid test available at the airport premises. We think we just need to alight on a testing regime and go on and enable it for high-risk countries. However, we should be looking at this using a number of criteria. The first criterion is that the testing regime should not consume the State's testing capacity. The second is that it should be scaleable. The third is that it should be affordable. The fourth is that it should be able to give rapid results.
We must be clear that aviation requires a screen testing capability, not necessarily a diagnostic testing capability. For this reason, we believe the advances in antigen testing are the most appropriate to consider in this regard. IATA advises that rapid and affordable antigen testing can be administered by non-medical staff, which is another major benefit as it would not place a burden on the health system of the country of arrival for passengers. IATA is working with the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, to try to get endorsement for antigen testing as a solution for the restoration of international travel. Airlines are deploying these solutions. Alitalia and Lufthansa are both deploying the Abbott and Roche antigen testing solutions as we speak. We call for an urgent evaluation of testing solutions. Antigen testing is a solution that can really scale up effectively and deliver on all of the criteria we have set out in the paper. In the absence of immediate endorsement of antigen testing, we should look at testing protocols that can be implemented for high-risk countries that meet the current health standards, for example, polymerase chain reaction or PCR testing.
The second matter on which I would like to update the committee is the temporary wage subsidy scheme, TWSS. We have been the subject of a lot of commentary, much of it inaccurate, in terms of how we as an organisation have applied the TWSS. We are acutely aware of the impact the Covid-19 crisis is having on the employees of Aer Lingus and employees in the aviation and hospitality sectors. It has been made worse for people in Ireland because of the uniquely restricted travel policies that we have. As a consequence, everybody in Aer Lingus has had to be placed on reduced hours and pay. We took a decision to maintain, insofar as possible, a direct employment relationship with all of our employees. That was the stated aim of the TWSS and Aer Lingus has very much embraced the programme with that in mind. An alternative approach, one taken by many employers, would have been to lay off significant numbers of employees and direct them exclusively towards the social protection system for welfare support. That is a decision we did not take.
In terms of clearing the record and clarifying some of the inaccurate commentary that I mentioned, we have at all times acted fully in accordance with the guidance received from the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection on both the TWSS, the employment wage subsidy scheme, EWSS, and the various jobseeker schemes that are available. In all cases, the TWSS was calculated in the first instance on the average Revenue net weekly pay for January and February 2020. That was the period defined by the Revenue Commissioners and that was the baseline before cuts to hours or pay were applied to Aer Lingus employees. As such, our subsidies that were passed through were based on the unreduced salaries of our employees. As the qualification was based on the average net weekly wage in January and February, the subsequent reduction in hours that we had to introduce as a result of the reduction in activity did not reduce the subsidy payments calculated or made under the TWSS. Aer Lingus applied the full amount of those subsidies and passed it on in full to all of its employees.
We request that the committee lend its voice to calling for the urgent and complete adoption by Ireland of the co-ordinated approach to free movement across the European Union that was proposed by the European Commission, that is, the traffic light system; the early development of a rapid testing regime for the safe implementation of international travel; and the urgent implementation of the key recommendations of the aviation task force, as outlined on 10 July. All of these are critical to ensuring that the aviation sector recovers and plays a critical part in the recovery of the economy as we come out of the pandemic.