UK urged to allow ‘travel corridors’ between low-risk countries so flights can restart - here’s how it would work

Monday, 18th May 2020, 1:05 pm
Updated Monday, 18th May 2020, 1:05 pm
The boss of Heathrow is urging the government to allow travel between so-called “low-risk countries” (Photo: Shutterstock)

While lockdown restrictions are slowly starting to ease across the UK, the prospect of travelling abroad is still likely to be a while off yet.

In a bid to get the industry moving again, the boss of Heathrow is urging the government to allow travel between so-called “low-risk countries” in a bid to start rebuilding the economy.

How will travel be made safe?

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, has suggested the UK adopts a risk-based approach to determine where flights can and cannot travel from.

Mr Holland-Kaye suggested there should be a “free flow” of passengers between the UK and countries that have very low risks of transmission, after warning that the economy will suffer if a blanket ban on travel restrictions continue.

He argued the approach is more than “just about going on holiday”, as 40 per cent of the UK’s exports go on passenger planes from Heathrow.

UK nationals are currently banned from all but essential travel and borders still remain closed between many countries.

97% drop in passenger numbers

In April, Heathrow’s passenger numbers plunged by 97 per cent, from an average of 250,000 per day to between 5,000 and 6,000 since lockdown.

The few flights that have departed from the airport have mainly been repatriation services to bring Brits who have been stranded abroad back to the UK.

Speaking to Sky News, Holland-Kaye said, “I think that if the UK Government, with one of the biggest aviation sectors in the world, were to get together with the European Union and the United States, between them they have the heft and the global, diplomatic and economic power to set that international standard.

"I think the approach to take is the risk-based approach as we do with security, where if two countries are very low-risk free of transmission, there should be a free flow of passengers between those countries."

What are immunity passports?

As well as calling for travel between low-risk countries to be allowed, Mr Holland-Kaye also supported the idea of “immunity passports”.

The ‘passports’ would be based on antibody testing and would permit those who have already had coronavirus to travel more freely.

Thermal screening for passengers arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 2 is due to start next week, as part of new enhanced safety measures to detect passengers infected with coronavirus.

The cameras will automatically scan everyone who arrives at the terminal to spot any signs of a fever, and will allow the airport to capture data that will be forwarded to the government.