Airlines call for virus tests to save holiday season


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The aviation and vacation industry is set to hold urgent talks with the government this week to offer coronavirus testing at airports.

Companies say testing could end quarantine restrictions and save what’s left of the holiday season.

It is hoped that Covid-19 tests can be introduced at UK airports by the start of September.

Negative results would free travelers from quarantine rules when they arrive in the UK from high-risk areas.

Sources from a steering group that are in talks on behalf of the industry say that once the government is satisfied that the Covid-19 test results are of a verified and certified health and scientific standard, they could then be used.

The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) swab test which is offered at airports is of the type used at NHS facilities across the UK.

Nurses were performing the airport swab tests at clinics run by the Collinson Medical Society. The company has previously said the lawsuit is about “modifying” the quarantine.

Passengers would pay for the tests themselves. A negative result could take as little as five hours, but the goal would be to notify each participant within 24 hours.

The Department of Transportation declined to comment.

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Sources who spoke to the BBC expressed frustration at the government’s slow response to testing at airports.

The vacation and aviation industries have been crippled by the pandemic. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost at airlines and material handling companies as the skies shut down for months.

The lucrative transatlantic route between Europe and North America is seen as crucial for commerce and vacations.

On Tuesday, US Vice President Mike Pence called for a unified approach to airport testing to get passengers flying again and allow travelers to be released from quarantine restrictions.

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Those close to this new steering group expect the roads connecting certain cities in the United States to London to be given priority because of their importance to trade, such as New York or Dallas.

Major tour operators such as TUI and Jet2 restarted vacation operations to popular European vacation destinations around a fortnight ago. The numbers were down from the previous year, but they saw demand rebound.

Renewed concerns

But there are now big concerns about the rate of coronavirus infection in Spain.

Earlier this week, Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia recorded a daily Covid-19 infection figure of more than 1,000, leading to further restrictions. And on weekends, residents of Barcelona were told to leave their homes only for essential travel.

Regional authorities on the Spanish island of Mallorca in the Balearic Islands on Wednesday ordered the immediate closure of bars in three streets popular with tourists who drink alcohol to limit the potential for coronavirus outbreaks.

Fearing that many tourists will respect the rules of social distancing, the authorities have chosen to close the sites of the Platja de Palma strip in the capital Palma, and in Magaluf, a favorite haunt of young Britons.

If public health measures meant Spain was reclassified and removed from the list of non-quarantined trips, it would pose huge problems for the aviation industry.

A leading voice in the sector said that “this industry depends on Spain, kill it and there will be major problems”.

The source said the industry was concerned about what would happen to the thousands of British holidaymakers who are currently in Spain and the need for quarantine upon their return.

The travel industry is also concerned that those who are booked to travel in the coming weeks could get cold feet and start a second barrage of cancellations and refunds.

These problems could be offset by accelerating a rigorous testing program at airports, something the aviation industry has been asking for for months.

Despite criticism of the government’s quarantine program and its impact on the travel industry, ministers insisted that public health must come first.


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