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Airlines canvass test-on-arrival at airports

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Britain's biggest airlines have urged the United Kingdom’s Government to bring in a regime of airport coronavirus testing to revive air routes with pandemic hot-spots.

Chief Executives of British Airways, TUI, easyJet, and Virgin Atlantic have written to the Prime Minister, warning him that major routes connecting the UK with important world centres are at risk unless passenger travel is increased.

They urged the government to adopt a system similar to that in Germany, where passengers are tested on arrival, quarantined until they get a result, and then are released if negative.

In the letter, BA's Alex Cruz, Virgin Atlantic's Shai Weiss, TUI's Kenton Jarvis, easyJet's Johan Lundgren, and Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of trade body, Airlines UK, wrote: “We recognise there isn't a single international approach, but we believe a UK testing protocol based on the German model would stimulate significant demand while protecting public health.

“It would play a critical role both in supporting US-UK connectivity but also in safeguarding connections with key European and other global markets.”

Many airlines are teetering on the brink of collapse as global air travel had collapsed since March. The UK is currently adding more countries to its quarantine list as coronavirus cases surge again around the world.

Travellers returning from countries including Spain, France, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United States all face a fortnight in isolation. The US has had its borders closed to new UK arrivals for several months.

There are increasing fears that Greece and Croatia could be added to the list when data is reviewed. The executives also called for the U.S. to reopen its borders to travellers from the UK.

“Restoring consumer confidence and passenger flying at scale will also require the U.S. to open its borders to UK residents,” they said.

“It is our hope that the UK taking a lead on testing will support that vital economic objective.”

Greece is one country whose COVID-19 figures are likely to be scrutinised closely by the UK Government over the next few days.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, recently said quarantine measures could be introduced for any country recording a seven-day rate of more than 20 cases per 100,000 people.

In Greece, the latest seven-day rate is 13.5 cases per 100,000 people, up from 9.0 a week earlier, and 2.5 one month ago. The rate is clearly increasing, although not as steeply as was evident in Spain and France in recent weeks.

Another popular tourist destination, Italy, has also seen its numbers tick upwards, but the rate is currently at a much lower level than Greece - 5.5, up from 4.1 a week ago.

For now, both Greece and Italy remain on the list of countries from which people do not need to quarantine on arrival in the UK.

Belgium was taken off the list earlier this month, despite its numbers putting it over the 20 cases per 100,000 mark. The latest figures show a week-on-week drop in the seven-day rate, from 37.5 to 28.3. Spain (60.6) and France (30.8) also continue to be above this threshold.

Germany has seen its weekly rate creep upwards over the past month, but at a slow pace: figures for the last four seven-day periods are 4.6, 5.8, 7.1, and 9.3.

Ireland is currently recording a seven-day rate of 11.1 - roughly the same as in the previous week, but up from 2.7 a month ago.

As for the UK, 11.5 cases per 100,000 people were recorded in the seven days to August 16, up from 9.2 in the previous week. At the start of July the rate was 9.4, while at the beginning of June it was 20.9.


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