Gatwick boss says passengers should be given compulsory virus tests 48 hours before they fly


Travellers should be given compulsory virus tests 48 hours before departure once lockdown is lifted, the head of Britain’s second busiest airport has said.

Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick Airport, also called for passengers to be required to carry ‘health passports’ to prove they are clear of the virus and wear face covers on flights.

The proposals to get Britain’s skies moving again come as the Department for Transport considers proposals that would allow people to take their summer holidays.

It has set up a working group with the aviation industry to discuss how to allow global travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

Low-cost airline Wizz Air announced today it would restart some flights from Luton airport on May 1, making it the first European carrier to attempt to normalise services since lockdown began.

Cabin crew would wear masks and gloves throughout flights, they said, and distribute hand sanitising wipes to passengers. Aircraft would be disinfected every evening. It flies to Budapest, Lisbon and Tenerife among other destinations. 

The boss of Britain’s second busiest airport also called for travellers to be required to carry ‘health passports’ when travelling on international flights. Pictured: Gatwick airport

Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Britain's second busiest airport

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps

Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick, (left) has called for the government to enact measures to get flights in the air again. The Department of Transport, led by Grant Shapps (right) has set up a working group to discuss options

Mr Wingate told The Times ministers are considering whether tests, if required, should be carried out at airports or in communities. 

‘For example, would it be better for a passenger to arrive at airport with some sort of certification that said “I have been checked over the last 48 hours and I am Covid-free”?’, he said.

‘Those are the sorts of things that I am sure will be considered by the restart and recovery group.’ 

He added: ‘Passengers increasingly are travelling wearing facial coverings and I am sure that’s something that the government team will be considering.’

The boss of Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye, has called for internationally agreed standards for travel that could include temperature checks, antibody tests and a requirement that all passengers carry a health passport.

He also demanded Public Health England released data proving its claims that temperature screenings were ineffective, which has led to no government-controlled checks being set up at British airports. 

Airports have remained mostly empty since the Foreign Office advised against international travel. Pictured above is Gatwick Airport's empty southern terminal

Airports have remained mostly empty since the Foreign Office advised against international travel. Pictured above is Gatwick Airport’s empty southern terminal

But at least 15,000 people are still flying into the UK and not being checked every day

But at least 15,000 people are still flying into the UK and not being checked every day

Pictured above is the empty South Terminal at Gatwick Airport during lockdown

Pictured above is the empty South Terminal at Gatwick Airport during lockdown

The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said yesterday measures to screen passengers arriving at UK airports will remain ‘under review’.

The European Union may also be considering bloc-wide restrictions on travel.

The Greek tourism minister, Harry Theoharis, has said holidaymakers will still be able to take summer holidays in the country providing the 27 members agree specific protocols for international travel.

He told SKAI TV that, although Hellas’ important holiday season would be shortened, it could continue until October or even November during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Europe’s Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has indicated the bloc will find ‘smart solutions’ to allow summer holidays.

She told Portuguese publication Expresso Sunday vacations may be a ‘little different, with other hygiene measures, with a little more social distance,’ but that solutions will be found.

But she warned in an interview with German newspaper Bild earlier this month it is hard to make reliable forecasts for holidays in July and August. 

Britain has continued to allow at least 15,000 people into the country every day without making them face any checks after Public Health England alleged temperature checks did not work.

Under current measures, passengers are handed flimsy information leaflets and told to self-isolate if they feel unwell.  

Critics say the decision not to limit arrivals and check passengers threatens the health of the nation and makes a mockery of the lockdown conditions imposed on the rest of Britain.

The moves to get planes off the tarmac again come as several airlines raise fears they could go bankrupt due to the grounding.

Virgin Atlantic has applied for hundreds of millions of pounds in state aid as the global lockdown cuts off passengers and its income. 

EasyJet, which has been relying on cash reserves, has also hinted it may apply for state aid while British Airways has so far distanced itself from asking countries for assistance.

The International Air Transport Association has warned the sector will suffer an estimated £21.1billion hit in lost income this year as 140million fewer passengers take to the skies. 

 

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