The global aviation association has warned that travel restrictions and flight cancellations imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic had "severely limited" cargo capacity needed to ship medicines.
The International Air Transport Association urged governments on Monday to keep air cargo flowing to prop up supply chains and transport medical necessities during the deadly new coronavirus outbreak.
"The dramatic travel restrictions and collapse of passenger demand have severely limited cargo capacity," said Geneva-based IATA.
It added that besides delivering medicines and medical equipment, air cargo was instrumental in transporting food and products bought online that support quarantine and social distancing policies.
"Over 185,000 passenger flights have been cancelled since the end of January in response to government travel restrictions," said IATA chief executive Alexandre de Juniac.
"With this, vital cargo capacity has disappeared when it is most urgently needed in the fight against COVID-19." While freighter aircraft have been mobilised to make up the shortfall, governments "must take urgent measures to ensure that vital supply lines remain open, efficient and effective", he said.
IATA called on governments to exclude air cargo from travel restrictions, exempt cargo crew who do not interact with the public from quarantine requirements and remove parking fees and slot restrictions to free up air cargo operations.
"As we fight a global health war against COVID-19, governments must take urgent action to facilitate air cargo. Keeping cargo flowing will save lives," Juniac said.