Heathrow CEO tells Boris Johnson to “get a grip of our border policy”
Heathrow has set up the first coronavirus testing centre for arrivals – but tests will cost passengers £150 a time.
The unit is now available, but no passengers will be able to use it until the government permits a trial.
The testing centre is in Terminal 2, with a second in Terminal 5 set to open in September. The facility has been developed by logistics firms Swissport and Collinson.
It includes 24 booths for swab tests, each staffed by a nurse. If given the go-ahead, passengers from countries not on the travel corridors list – such as the US, Spain and France – will be able to avoid two weeks of quarantine.
After Spain was removed to the travel corridors list, Heathrow’s CEO called for a new resting regime. Yesterday, he told prime minister Boris Johnson to “get a grip of our border policy” or risk mass redundancies in the travel industry.
He said: “Testing will not only avoid the ‘quarantine roulette’ that so many passengers faced in Spain and France, it will also open up flights to key trading partners such as the US, Canada and Singapore.
“The government’s own research shows that a double test has a high level of accuracy in screening for Covid. This facility is an oven-ready opportunity to see how Britain can safely reopen for business, as other countries are doing.”
Writing in The Mail, John Holland-Kaye said: “For months, Heathrow has been calling for the government to introduce testing as an alternative to quarantine. A single test is not considered accurate enough, so initially at least a double test would be required.
“Heathrow is ready to support this provided the government sets clear guidelines for a second test and changes regulations to allow passengers who provide two negative tests to leave quarantine early.
“We have worked closely with aviation services company Collinson and logistics firm Swissport to ensure such a testing procedure can be in place. If the government is serious about protecting the economy, this is exactly what should be done.
“Had the government done so after the Spanish crisis, a plan could have been in place for those caught up in the French problems last weekend. It is not too late to save people returning from Greece, Croatia or Italy the inconvenience of 14 days at home.”
On Twitter, Derek Jones, the CEO of Kuoni parent Der Touristik UK, said the government, not holidaymakers should be footing the bill. “£150 per test is ridiculous,” he wrote. “We need affordable (preferably free at the point of arrival) testing to kick start the travel industry. A government prepared to spend millions of pounds on half price restaurant meals should see this as sensible economic stimulus.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO at Advantage Travel Partnership, called it a positive step “towards redressing the damage done to the travel industry by blanket quarantine procedures.” She said: “Scientific advice supports the process of double testing, one on arrival and one at the travellers home two days later. This could be a very real opportunity to significantly cut down the quarantine time and at the same time help prevent transmission of the virus.
“Since a number of key destinations have been removed from the government’s safe list, consumer confidence to book a holiday is at an all-time low. We urge the government to consider this potential compromise as a priority. A solution such as this would surely boost confidence for many Britons who simply cannot afford to take 14-days additional leave after their holiday as a result of the quarantine rules.
“We’re hoping the plan will move forward quickly, be endorsed and supported by government and rolled-out by other airports. For leisure travellers it would help ease the panic caused by sudden quarantine announcements, as happened in France and make people less fearful to book future holidays. For business travellers it would certainly be a real boost and provide kick-start needed to get the sector operating again.”