John Holland-Kaye, managing director of Britain’s busiest airport, said the UK should take a risk-based approach to flights and warned that the UK economy would suffer if general restrictions on the journeys continued. He also supported the idea of ”immunity passports” to allow people who have already had Covid-19 to travel more freely.
Passenger numbers at Heathrow dropped 97% in April, from an average of 250,000 per day to between 5,000 and 6,000 since the lockdown. Holland-Kaye told Sky News, “This is a very minimal traffic level, and I think as long as the forties [travel ban] is in place, which will continue at these low levels.
“Quarantine cannot last more than a relatively short period if we are to revive the economy. This is where we urge the government to have a common international standard, in collaboration with other countries so that traffic can start to flow normally between low-risk countries. “
British nationals are now banned, but essential travel and borders are closed between many countries. The few flights that have landed are mainly repatriation services to bring trapped Britons abroad.
Ministers plan to tell newcomers to the UK to quarantine for two weeks and download the new tracking app, which is being piloted on the Isle of Wight and will soon be rolled out across the country.
Holland-Kaye suggested that there should be “free movement” of passengers between the UK and countries with low risk of transmission. He said: “I think that if the British government, with one of the largest aviation sectors in the world, were to meet with the European Union and the United States, between them, they would have the weight and world power, diplomatic and economic. to establish this international standard.
“I think the approach to take is the risk-based approach as we do with security, where if two countries are very low risk or free of transmission, there should be free movement of passengers between these country.”
Holland-Kaye launched the call as the airport was preparing to screen passengers arriving at Heathrow Terminal 2 for high temperatures from the end of the week to identify travelers infected with coronavirus.
The thermal imaging cameras will automatically scan everyone who lands at the terminal to identify those who have signs of fever. This will allow him to capture data that will be transmitted to the government.
The cameras are part of previously announced trials to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which include procedures to reduce person-to-person contact, UV sanitation, and effective tray cleaning for security.
Rory Boland, publisher of Which? Travel said: “If flights are to resume, passengers need to be certain that if travel restrictions disrupt their travel, the airline will reimburse them within a reasonable time or book their travel for free. “
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said: “The aviation sector is important to the British economy and the ministers are in regular contact with their senior officials to discuss the challenges they face and the means we can support.
“We are continuing to look for the best ways to restart all forms of transportation, while taking care to limit the risk of creating a second wave of cases.”