Posted on Jul 29, 2020
Britain's somewhat confused, and confusing, reaction to the coronavirus has appeared to focus on announcements about initiatives that fail to happen. Testing of passengers arriving at UK airports being among the first. Even as the scale of the outbreak was being realised, flights from China and hotspots such as Tehran, Milan and Madrid continued to pour in daily, with hundreds of thousands of passengers heading straight for London's overcrowded underground network. None were ever tested.
Heathrow Airport, once Europe’s busiest airport, called on Britain to urgently introduce a passenger testing regime, warning that without one it would lose a game of global “quarantine roulette” coronavirus stalled aviation, Reuters reports CEO John Holland-Kaye as saying.
“The UK needs a passenger testing regime and fast,” he said. “Without it, Britain is just playing a game of quarantine roulette.”
“Our European competitors are racing ahead with passenger testing, if the UK doesn’t act soon global Britain will be nothing more than a campaign slogan.”
The worst public health crisis since the 1918 influenza outbreak has wrought economic turmoil across the world and just as the travel industry restarted there are now fears of a second wave of shutdowns after Britain imposed a quarantine on Spain.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism for being too slow to lockdown, too slow to ensure PPE, too slow to craft a nationwide testing programme, failure to track and trace, and for touting a home testing approach that has been dogged by delays.
Heathrow airport, along with airlines and the entire tourism industry, is feeling the full effects of the outbreak.
Passenger numbers fell 96% in the second quarter while cargo volumes fell over 30%. Revenue fell 85%. Heathrow, though, said its finances remained robust.
It said it had enough cash to last until at least June 2021 with no revenue.
“We have agreed a waiver on financial covenants until the end of 2021 and maintained our Investment Grade credit rating status."
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