Britons could take rapid coronavirus tests before flights to and from the UK as ministers consider ways to restart holiday trips abroad in time for the summer months.
Scientists and officials are looking at whether coronavirus tests could be taken both before leaving and re-entering Britain to avoid quarantine that could help give a boost to the aviation industry.
Heathrow Airport, which has been carrying out Covid-19 detection trials, has suggested rapid antibody tests could be introduced at security checkpoints, or even before passengers enter an airport.
Greece and Iceland already offer 24-hour coronavirus tests to travellers arriving in their airports, whereas Vienna airport has a £166 testing service that gives results in 30 minutes.
Britons could take rapid coronavirus tests before flights to and from the UK as ministers consider ways to restart holiday trips abroad in July, it has been reported
Department for Transport source told The Telegraph: ‘What is being mooted is a mutually recognised test where a foreign businessman, say, has an accredited test a day before flying. It could enable people to travel but maintain public health.’
The vast majority of flights in and out of the UK have been suspended since March after the government advised against all but essential travel.
A 14-day quarantine period is set to be introduced for all arrivals in to the UK, including returning Brits, from June 8.
But the new restriction will be reviewed after three weeks, opening up the possibility of trialling rapid tests and other options.
Ministers are also working on ‘air bridges’ to link the UK to low-risk destinations in other countries through bilateral agreements so quarantining is avoided.
Heathrow Airport have suggested rapid antibody tests could be introduced at security checkpoints, or even before passengers enter an airport
An internationally agreed set of standards for ‘safe’ post-coronavirus travel is being drawn up by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, to cover ‘travel corridors’ or ‘air bridges’ between countries.
One such location could be Portugal, with officials reportedly in the initial stages of a agreeing on a plan that would allow holidaymakers to travel between the Iberian Peninsula nation and the UK.
Portugal is one of five European countries expected to lift border and quarantine restrictions by mid-June so that most holiday travel could open by July.
Heathrow’s CEO John Holland-Kaye backed the idea of ‘air bridges’ between countries with low levels of infection as a way to boost the tourism sector.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today, he said: ‘If they think that quarantine is the right thing to do I think we have to go with that, but it has to be time-limited and we have to plan for what comes next.
‘The idea of air bridges … is a very sensible way of doing that. There is no perfect way to make sure only healthy people fly at this stage, so we have to take a risk-based approach.’
Boris Johnson told MPs in the Liaison Committee Wednesday that he wanted ‘as sensible a quarantine scheme as possible and to keep flows as generous as we can’.
But he also indicated that ‘air bridges’ could be implemented by the end of June, provided the UK reached agreements with ‘low-risk’ countries.
‘There is certainly a willingness in Government to try to do as much for this summer as is safe,’ said a source.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said he was ‘a little more optimistic’ about reviving foreign travel soon, saying he ‘wouldn’t rule out’ holiday travel abroad in July.
Hundreds of planes have been grounded for months after international flights were suspended as Government advised against all but essential travel
It comes as more than 80 British tourism chiefs including the bosses of London’s top five hotels today joined 40 MPs to urge the Government to abandon its ‘poorly thought out and unworkable’ travel quarantine plan.
The new border regime which will require all arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days, has been widely savaged by the aviation and tourism sectors.
Critics have said the plan is ‘the very last thing’ the already ‘severely challenged’ industry as the Government comes under increasing pressure to axe it to avoid destroying the peak summer season.
80 of the biggest names in British travel and tourism, including the owners of The Ritz, The Savoy, The Goring, Claridge’s and The Dorchester, have written to Home Secretary Priti Patel demanding she axes the rules for tourists before it starts.
The letter says: ‘The people of this country do not wish to be prevented from travelling. The government itself has urged people to use their common sense in terms of their behaviour. Quite simply, it is time to switch the emphasis from protection to economic recovery, before it is too late.’
It then asks Ms Patel ‘to abandon the concept of mandatory quarantine and instead, champion an industry that provides not only a major economic contribution to the whole of the UK, but also such joy to so many people’.
And yesterday, Unite the union said all UK airports are being affected by the impact on travel caused by the coronavirus crisis, adding that smaller regional airports may be forced to close permanently.
Without urgent action regional economies will take a big hit, destroying the Prime Minister’s pledge to level up the economy, said Unite.
An estimated 1.2 million UK workers rely on aviation for their employment, many of them in the airports, airlines, retail, services and transport jobs associated with air travel, according to research by the union.
Heathrow, the UK’s largest airport, supports 190,000 jobs across the UK and generates an income of £9.7 billion for the surrounding and national economy, said the report.
The economic benefits of regional airports to local economies were also highlighted, with Bristol airport indirectly supporting 15,000 jobs in the South West and generating £1.3 billion, while Glasgow airport supports 8,200 jobs and generating £590 million for the Scottish economy.
Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: ‘Airports are hubs for massive economic activity for our towns and cities, supporting jobs from cabin crew and ground handling to engineers and cleaners.
‘But they are facing huge challenges at the moment and need urgent assistance to secure a future where they can continue to provide important routes and support millions of direct and indirect jobs.
‘To lose them or see them diminish as employers will open up huge holes in local economies the length and breadth of the country.
‘It is crucial that regional airports are supported by the government to ensure that regional connectivity and local economies are not irrevocably damaged with mass job losses, especially in those parts of the country where they are a major employer or the heart of the economy.’
Source: Daily Mail – Articles