19 OCTOBER 2020
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A prepared statement by Transport Secretary of State Grant Shapps at last week’s ABTA Travel Convention contained no news at all for an industry that has been virtually halted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
He reiterated plans for a government task force to create a new testing regime to open the UK to international travel and claimed when questioned by moderator Chris Shipp of ITV that the Government had spent “Billions of pounds in supporting industry,” pronouncing that travel was top of the list.
It drew a sharp response from ABTA Chief Executive Mark Tanzer who said “we’ve yet to see evidence” of the work Shapps has done for the sector.
Mr Shapps ruled out the possibility of testing passengers at airports moments after they land, saying that he was “certain” this would allow many asymptomatic people to spread the virus in the UK, despite a similar system being used by at least 30 countries. This was in direct contrast to Heathrow’s checking system already in place and ready to go.
Under new Government proposals travellers will have to take the test in person after a week, rather than sending a sample to a lab. This would be carried out at a private lab at travellers’ expense — about £150 a test — to avoid overloading the NHS, he said.
On a positive note Mr Shapps said that the Government was working on an “internationally recognised” system in which “tests and perhaps isolation take place prior to travel ….. and we would require no quarantine.” Speculation has mounted that this system will be trialled on some flights between London and New York, the busiest long-haul route.
In a statement British Airways said: “We believe that we need to move to a pre-flight testing regime where travellers arriving in the UK all have a negative test up to 72 hours before flying. This is rapidly becoming the industry model.”
Mr Shapps is ‘on parade’, 19 October, at another virtual conference (see Airlines 2050 Monday morning in this week's BTN). His interrogator this time will be Peggy Hollinger of the Financial Times.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Barry Graham, USA
It makes no sense to treat the whole of the USA as one large state when it comes to quarantine and arrival in the UK. States like mine have a very low positivity rate and we deserve having to quarantine for 14 days as much as people coming from exempt countries. Of course the USA treating visitors the same way doesn't help (but at least we don't have to quarantine when we return if we are American citizens, unlike in the UK where even UK citizens have to quarantine for 14 days when coming back from the USA).