April 18, 2024

Influential MPs join campaign for airport testing

By Bev Fearis, published 26/08/20

A group of 80 MPS has written to the Prime Minister calling for an end to the 14-day quarantine and the introduction of Covid testing at UK airports.

The Future of Aviation group, half of which are Conservative MPs, say current quarantine rules are stifling business and leisure travel and are sending “precisely the wrong message at the wrong time” to many of the UK’s current and future trading partners.

They say passengers from high-risk countries who test negative should be allowed to end their 14-day isolation early.

“Without testing, we risk not only limiting leisure travel but also damaging our aspirations for a truly global Britain,” says the letter, which sets out a 10-point plan to revive air travel.

Heathrow Airport is still waiting for Government approval to begin trials of a testing centre developed in partnership with logistics firms Swissport and Collinson. The centre in Terminal 2 is ready to go and could handle more than 13,000 passenger tests per day. Another in Terminal 5 could be ready within weeks, says the airport.

Last week, a group of airline chiefs including the bosses of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet wrote to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps recommending the adoption of German-style state testing at UK airports.

They argued that testing is the best way to re-open transatlantic links with the U.S. and other high-risk nations.

But reports emerged today that Germany is set to abandon airport testing and revert to mandatory quarantine for high-risk countries. Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to make a final decision later this week.

Industry chiefs fear Germany’s decision will impact the direction taken in the UK.

“The Government is nervous around testing. It’s not completely convinced,” said Clive Wratten, Chief Executive of the Business Travel Association. “My concern is that ministers will be less inclined if Germany removes testing.”

He said the BTA is now calling for a new level of travel advice to be introduced in light of the pandemic because the current system is “not fit for purpose”. It argues that a new “travel with caution” status should be introduced to provide more flexibility for the business travel sector.

Ministers are due to meet this week to discuss alternatives to the current strict 14-day quarantine, which is now in place for many countries including France, the Netherlands and Belgium.

The Future of Aviation group includes Graham Brady, Chair of the Tory 1922 committee, founder Henry Smith, and ex-Aviation Minister Paul Maynard.

The group’s report also calls for an extension of the Government’s furlough scheme to March 2021, with research suggesting that as many as 780,000 jobs across the aviation sector are at risk.

It also recommends a temporary suspension of Air Passenger Duty, which previous research showed could save nearly half of air routes that would otherwise be lost due to the crisis.