Heathrow ‘ready to go’ on testing but needs Government to make a decision

Thirty airports are already using testing as a ‘safe alternative to 14-day quarantine’, Heathrow says

Heathrow has said it is “ready to go” on testing for coronavirus at the airport but is waiting on the Government to give it the all-clear, after passenger numbers plunged in August.

Britain's biggest airport has now trialled three “rapid point of care testing solutions” and has a facility for screening passengers on arrival at Terminal 2, it said. 

The transport hub once again urged the Government to introduce testing as an alternative to its  14-day blanket policy “to protect millions of jobs across the UK and to kickstart the economic recovery”.

It added: “A robust testing regime should form part of a suite of measures as no one action in the fight against Covid-19 can be seen as a silver bullet.”

It came as passenger numbers plummeted by 81.5pc in August – usually one of the busiest months of the year – compared to 2019, as controversial quarantine restrictions continued to hammer demand for air travel. 

The transatlantic market was hit hardest, with passenger numbers from North America falling by more than 95pc. 

Aviation bosses are becoming increasingly frustrated with the “stop-start” nature of the quarantine restrictions. They say the measures are preventing people from travelling even though there is pent-up demand in the market

Portugal was the latest country to be removed from the UK’s quarantine exemption list this week, having only been added to the “green list” on Aug 22. Hungarys air bridge was also scrapped. 

Earlier this week, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary and IATA boss Alexandre de Juniac became the latest industry leaders to throw their weight behind testing at airports to replace “lumpy and defective” quarantine policies

Former prime minister Theresa May also endorsed the central tenet of the Telegraph’s Test4Travel campaign.

She said testing travellers on arrival and then again a few days later was the key to getting planes flying again and helping to revive the economy.

Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Heathrow's traffic figures for August demonstrate the extent to which quarantine is strangling the economy.

“The Government has announced it is looking at the options for reducing quarantine for passengers who test negative for Covid-19 - but ministers urgently need to turn words into action. Every day of further Government delay costs British jobs and livelihoods.”

Last month, Mr Holland-Kaye told the Telegraph that Heathrow would create more testing facilities at the airport if it gets the go-ahead from the Government. 

The airport also pointed out that more than 30 airports are already using testing as a “safe alternative to 14-day quarantine”.

“Frankfurt airport has already overtaken Heathrow, an early warning that Britain's economy will fall behind if we don't protect our global trading network,” it warned. 

Boris Johnson has argued that airport testing gives passengers a “false sense of security”.

However, bosses and analysts fear a second wave of job losses in the industry unless demand picks up soon and the Government steps in to provide sector-specific support.

In July, Heathrow reported a £1.1bn pre-tax loss for the six months to June after passenger numbers tumbled 96pc in the second quarter as aviation ground to an almost total halt.