“The UK needs a passenger testing regime and fast,” says John Holland-Kaye.
The chief executive of Heathrow has renewed calls for passenger testing at airports instead of the current 14-day quarantine policy for high-risk countries.
John Holland-Kaye said that the removal of Spain from the Department for Transport’s travel corridor list and the change in Foreign Office & Commonwealth advice against non-essential travel to mainland Spain and then its islands “should serve as a clarion call for the government.”
He said: “The UK needs a passenger testing regime and fast,” adding that “without it, Britain is just playing a game of quarantine roulette.
“As many of our customers have experienced, it’s difficult to plan a holiday that way, let alone run a business.
“Testing offers a way to safely open up travel and trade to some of the UK’s biggest markets which currently remain closed,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“Our European competitors are racing ahead with passenger testing, if the UK doesn’t act soon global Britain will be nothing more than a campaign slogan.”
He added that the government needed to introduce an “alternative to the cliff-edge” of quarantine and that a testing system could be “up and running within the next couple of weeks”.
“We all have the same interests here. Nobody wants to have a second wave. We will always put the interests of health and safety first. But the government also has a responsibility to protect jobs and support the economy,” Holland-Kaye said.
WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said: “It is imperative that all airports, catering for international travel, implement globally recognised testing standards for both inbound and outbound passengers.
“This will provide reassurance to all travellers, maintain ‘air corridors’ between countries, and remove damage and disruption caused by blunt quarantines which massively impact the recovery of the travel and tourism sector.”
She added: “Removing the whole of Spain from the UK travel corridors exception list risks causing irreparable damage to the sector. It also makes no sense; while Spain as a whole, and Catalonia in particular, has a higher rate of coronavirus cases than then UK, the rate in Andalucía, the Balearics and Canaries is actually lower than the UK.
“As part of the screening process, testing must involve temperature checks and swab tests for all arriving and departing passengers with results back within 24 hours, and only those testing positive – with or without symptoms – should be put into quarantine. Where there are apps to assist in effective test and trace regimes, passengers must be advised to sign up and use them.
“We are going to have to live with Covid-19 for the foreseeable future so we must do all we can to protect public health and save lives, whilst restoring consumer confidence, driving the global economic recovery, and saving the jobs of millions of people whose very livelihoods depend upon a thriving travel and tourism sector.”