Heathrow urges testing as an alternative to 14-day quarantine

International rivals overtaking Heathrow is early warning of Britain’s economy falling behind, says airport.

Heathrow has urged the UK government to introduce testing as an alternative to 14-day quarantine to protect millions of jobs across the UK and to kickstart the economic recovery. 

The UK’s largest airport says 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.

The call comes after it was revealed that August passenger demand was down 81.5% compared to the same month in 2019, with 1.4m people travelling via Heathrow – less than a fifth of what is usually seen in the summer getaway

Long haul markets, which are critical for UK exporters and a main source of inbound tourism, students and investment, remain closed by the government’s 14 day quarantine policy, and North American passenger numbers are down by more than 95% compared to last year 

Heathrow cargo was down 34.2% (to 88 metric tonnes) compared with last year, with more businesses struggling to get their products to markets as government restrictions have severed air links. This decrease is despite more dedicated cargo flights coming into the airport this August – 1,923 - than last year - 218.

Heathrow bosses have pointed out that more than 30 airports are already using testing as a safe alternative to 14 day quarantine and getting their economies moving – and have highlighted that Frankfurt airport has overtaken Heathrow, an early warning that “Britain’s economy will fall behind if we don’t protect our global trading network.” 

Heathrow has now trialled three rapid point of care testing solutions and has a facility for testing passengers on arrival – and says it is ready to go on testing and waiting on government to make a decision.

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, said: “Britain’s economic recovery is falling behind. Heathrow’s traffic figures for August demonstrate the extent to which quarantine is strangling the economy, cutting British businesses off from their international markets and blocking international students, tourists and investors from coming here to spend money. 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.”

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