Now Reading
Heathrow Airport Calls for COVID-19 Passenger Testing Regime to Unlock “Quarantine Roulette”

Heathrow Airport Calls for COVID-19 Passenger Testing Regime to Unlock “Quarantine Roulette”

The chief executive of London’s Heathrow International Airport (LHR) has called for a mass COVID-19 passenger testing programme to help unlock the “quarantine roulette” that would-be overseas travellers are currently playing. The call follows a decision by the UK government last weekend to slap a 14-day home quarantine order on all passengers returning from Spain after a surge in recorded Coronavirus cases in the Catalonia and Aragon regions.

“The UK needs a passenger testing regime and fast,” implored Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye. “Without it, Britain is just playing a game of quarantine roulette. As many of our customers have experienced, it’s difficult to plan a holiday that way, let alone run a business,” he warned.

Photo Credit: Heathrow Airport

“Testing offers a way to safely open up travel and trade to some of the UK’s biggest markets which currently remain closed. Our European competitors are racing ahead with passenger testing, if the UK doesn’t act soon global Britain will be nothing more than a campaign slogan,” Holland-Kaye continued.

German airports will offer free COVID-19 testing to all passengers returning from certain high-risk location, although for the time being at least, travellers will still have to endure a full 14-day quarantine. Testing is also available at several other European countries, including at Vienna airport where passengers can pay a fee to take a test and avoid self-isolation rules.

Last week, the chief executives of four major airlines called on European and U.S. leaders to create a testing regime in order to open up the all-important transatlantic market.

The CEO’s of American Airlines, IAG, Lufthansa and United Airlines wrote in an open letter that testing would “enhance safety and build confidence in critical transatlantic passenger air services.”

Yesterday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that prolonged border closures were not a viable long-term solution to protecting countries from the novel Coronavirus. “Economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume,” the WHO’s Emergencies Director Michael Ryan said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

But the UK government’s culture secretary Oliver Dowden said on Wednesday that Britain doesn’t currently have a viable alternative to quarantine orders. Government ministers have warned that foreign travel isn’t risk-free and that further quarantine orders could be imposed at little to no notice.

The risk of being told to self-isolate has hit an already shaky recovery for international tourism, with holiday companies and airlines cancelling trips to Spain until early August. The chief executive of easyJet Holidays urged the government to “collaboratively” work with the industry on a more “targeted and structured approach” that would avoid the blunt use of quarantine rules on entire countries.

Heathrow Airport reported a £93 million loss in the second quarter, saying passenger numbers remained 96 per cent down throughout the period. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) revealed on Tuesday that recovery would be much slower than originally predicted and could now stretch into 2024.

BoardingArea