Heathrow chief calls for common anti-virus measures to restart travel

THE head of London Heathrow airport has called on the UK to work with the European Union and the US on an international safety standard to reopen the air-travel industry

26 May 2020 - 19:00

THE head of London Heathrow airport has called on the UK to work with the European Union and the US on an international safety standard to reopen the air-travel industry.

Speaking in an interview with Sky News, chief executive officer John Holland-Kaye, said quarantines cannot be applied indefinitely or across the board. Countries with low coronavirus transmission rates could have free-flowing travel between them, with tighter controls kept in place for high-risk destinations, he said.

'That's the kind of thing we should be thinking for the next phase in about a month or so,' the CEO said. 'It's not good the UK having a health passport if another country has an entirely different system.'

The UK government's plan to introduce a 14-day quarantine for arrivals to the country could leave it out of kilter with others, Mr Holland-Kaye said. Passenger levels have slumped 97 per cent, down to 5,000 a day from 250,000, he added.

Opposition to quarantine has grown within the industry, partly because the prospect of passengers having to shelter in place for two weeks after arriving at a destination would act as a deterrent to travel.

'We think the quarantine rules - which even the British government admit they haven't defined, they can't police and they don't know how to implement - they're clearly not based on any science,' Ryanair Holdings Plc CEO Michael O'Leary said in a Bloomberg TV interview. 'I think it will largely, over the next 3 or 4 weeks, be removed in favour of something that is effective, which is face masks and temperature checks.'

Heathrow is conducting health-screening trials that can be part of the solution, the airport said. Options that could be considered include an immunity passport for those that have tested positive for antibodies showing they have been exposed to the virus, as well checks for fever, one of the symptoms of Covid-19. These would be done at the point of departure, the airport said.

'We are encouraging government to adopt a common international standard, working with other countries so that traffic can start to flow in a more normal way between low risk countries,' Mr Holland-Kaye said.

In France, Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport is already deploying infrared cameras to screen passengers for fever when they arrive in the French capital. Airports operator Aeroports de Paris (ADP) has bought a dozen of the systems that can scan as many as 16 people per second. The first one has been set up at a Terminal 2E exit week after passport control and baggage collection, reports Bloomberg.

If someone is found to have a fever, any further action would be purely voluntary, according to Edward Arkwright, deputy CEO of ADP. The person would be invited to undergo an individual temperature check to confirm a fever and then given the option of consulting with medical personnel and even taking a Covid-19 test if they wish, he said.

'If they refuse, that's their choice. We're counting on individual freedom and a sense of responsibility,' he said. 'The aim is to put in place a number of measures that will instil confidence so everyone feels like they can travel safely.'

The airport plans to rely on airlines to carry out temperature checks at the point of departure, he said.

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