Heathrow airport warns government’s quarantine plans will ‘close Britain to business’

As the government prepares to announce mandatory 14-day quarantine for arrivals from abroad, the UK’s biggest airport has warned: “Closing our borders to all will be closing Britain to business.”

Heathrow airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, told Sky News: “This is not just about going on holiday. Aviation is the lifeblood of UK.

“We have gone from serving around a quarter of a million passengers every day to around five or six thousand.

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“Quarantine cannot be in place for more than a relatively short amount of time if we are going to get the economy moving again.”

The prime minister announced the plan for 14 days of self-isolation a week ago. But the Home Office has provided no details of when quarantine will start, how long it will last and how it will work.

The government says: “The scientific advice shows that when domestic transmission is high, cases from abroad represent a small amount of the overall total and make no significant difference to the epidemic.

“Now that domestic transmission within the UK is coming under control, and other countries begin to lift lockdown measures, it is the right time to prepare new measures at the border.”

Mr Holland-Kaye appeared to urge that the rule requiring 14 days of self-isolation should stay in place no longer than June.

He said: “We should be thinking about the next phase in a month or so’s time as we start to see the infection is coming down in this country.”

Also on Sky News, the director-general of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, called for coronavirus testing on arrival.

“We see Vienna and Hong Kong introducing testing at airports as an alternative to quarantine.

“We do ask the government to think very carefully about how this [quarantine] is introduced so it doesn’t put the brakes on our fragile economy.”

“We’re an island economy, we are service-based. I’ve been hearing from businesses in aerospace in manufacturing who are really worried about this potential quarantine.”

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, told The Independent: “The quarantine is hopelessly unimplementable and unpoliceable.

“People will either observe it or not observe it as they so choose.”

Heathrow airport is to introduce thermal imaging for arriving passenger later this week, and will offer face masks to all travellers.

The airport’s chief executive insisted that the controversial third runway at Heathrow should go ahead, despite the collapse of air travel and impending worldwide recession.

Mr Holland-Kaye said: “The UK is a a global trading nation and we will desperately need that third runway within the next 10 to 15 years – which is about the length of time we need to build it.”

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