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Heathrow boss demands mandatory coronavirus testing at airports or risk huge travel losses

The travel industry has once again been thrown into disarray, with the Government making a dramatic U-turn on holidays to Spain by reimposing a travel ban. With fear of more travel bans ahead, Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kaye has urged the government to consider mandatory testing at airports.

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The CEO appeared on BBC Breakfast this morning, describing how he believes a new two-step testing process would allow Britons to continue to jet off on holiday, while also keeping the country safe from rising coronavirus rates.

Though the tests would not eliminate the need for a quarantine period for holidaymakers on their return to the UK, it would reduce the amount of time Britons would have to spend in isolation, allowing them to go back to work and daily life much sooner.

“It would allow us to reduce the time of quarantine because you can be tested for the virus but be at a very early stage of infection and not be showing any symptoms, so based on the medical advice I’ve been given there needs to be two tests,” explained Mr Holland-Kaye.

Mr Holland-Kaye said that the new measures could be in place in “two weeks” if the Government would give the scheme the green-light.

READ MORE: Greece holidays: Face mask rule could see tourists fined

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Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kaye calls for mandatory testing (Image: BBC Breakfast / Getty Images)

Many airports around the world are already testing passengers (Image: Getty Images)

It comes as Boris Johnson warned a second coronavirus wave could be about to make its way across Europe, sparking concern that further travel restrictions may be ahead.

He continued: “The first [test] at the airport, we’ve been working with Swissport to put that in place, we can get that running in two weeks.

“Then the passenger would go to quarantine at their home, they give their information to the track and trace system in the UK, then after five or eight days – whichever the government is comfortable with, they have a second test at an NHS facility and if they were clear they would be allowed out of quarantine earlier than if this was not the case.”

Meanwhile, preliminary modelling from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggested 94 percent of cases would be detected if the quarantine period was cut to eight days and passengers tested negative on the seventh.

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The Heathrow Boss believes these are the type of measures the country needs to strike a vital balance between saving the economy and millions of jobs, as well as ensuring passengers are safe.

He also cited concerns for the travel and tourism sector, after Heathrow’s announced passenger figures plummeted 96 percent in the last three months.

Cargo, including important trade for the UK, is also down due to a lack of passenger planes.

The airport further reported losses of £1.1 billion.

Mr Holland-Kaye appeared on BBC Breakfast (Image: BBC Breakfast)

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Despite the industry pleas, Minister for Culture Oliver Dowden said testing at airports is “not a silver bullet”, and though the Government remains in talks over a plan of action, tests are likely not going ahead imminently.

Yet, with thousands of would-be holidaymakers now devastated following the sudden Foreign Office travel ban on Spain, if more countries follow suit, it could mean even more devastation lies ahead for travel.

Speaking on Tuesday, the Prime Minister vowed the Government would not hesitate to act if flare-ups of coronavirus occurred in other destinations.

“I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic,” he said.

The tourism impact of COVID-19 (Image: DX)

Though further lockdowns and travel bans are one way of tackling the spread of the virus, the Heathrow boss says the threat they pose is why testing is such a necessity.

“We are going to be living with COVID-19 for many months to come and we know that a blanket quarantine can work for protecting health, but it has a devastating impact on the economy and every day we are hearing about thousands of jobs being lost as a result of COVID-19,” said Mr Holland-Kaye.

“If we go on for another year with a blanket quarantine, as an island trading nation millions of jobs will be lost.

“We need to find a balance between the two, learning from other countries who have brought in this kind of testing so that we can start to get the economy going again while keeping the country safe.”

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