Fears of ‘prolonged shutdown of all aviation’ after quarantine measures introduced

Fears of ‘prolonged shutdown of all aviation’ after quarantine measures introduced

Questions have been raised over how the 14-day quarantine for international travellers will work amid fears it could lead to a “prolonged shutdown of all aviation”.

British MPs sitting on the Commons Home Affairs Committee heard concerns about the possible effects of the plan amid calls for more detail to be urgently provided on how it could operate.

Karen Dee, chief executive of the UK Airport Operators Association, said there were also questions about people in certain jobs being exempt from the scheme.

She told the committee: “Of course an airline is not going to fly a flight if there are only one or two people who are exempted who will be coming in.

“That’s why we are concerned about the way that this will operate in that it may simply lead to a prolonged shutdown of all aviation.”

EasyJet planes grounded due to the coronavirus outbreak(Gareth Fuller/PA)
EasyJet planes grounded due to the coronavirus outbreak(Gareth Fuller/PA)

She said there had been no “specific discussions” with the UK government yet on how a quarantine would be implemented, adding: “We don’t have the detail, what we have said to government is that you need that information and that process to take place as early as possible.

“It’s certainly been one of our concerns that we felt we have not been able to fully understand what the objectives of the policy were, how it was being judged, how it would be implemented.

“Very recently we have begun to hear some details but I suppose in contrast we would have preferred some more early consultation so we could have either explained the likely impact that it could have on our industry but also to perhaps propose some alternative ways of achieving the same aim.”

Ms Dee described quarantine as a “blunt tool” said airports would prefer a “risk-based approach” using international agreements to satisfy safety and reduce the “huge” economic impact.

People in Terminal 2 arrivals at London Heathrow Airport (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
People in Terminal 2 arrivals at London Heathrow Airport (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

A combination of the so-called air bridges plan, where an agreement on travel is made with a particular country, and setting medical standards were seen as “a better alternative”, she said.

Former head of UK Border Force Tony Smith told MPs checks should be carried out before travel “wherever possible” and called for addresses to be provided electronically in advance and digital accreditation for anyone who is exempt.

Mr Smith, now the chairman of the International Border Management and Technologies Association, said: “We do need a very seamless, slick process.

“One of my big worries here is the bureaucratic implementation of this in terms of form filling and officers at our ports having to take down details manually could very quickly lead to delays and defeat the whole object of the exercise so I do hope that we can be innovative in the way that we capture that information.”

He said it “simply won’t get the ports moving again” if officers are having to speak to everyone individually but also warned “enforcement is going to be a challenge.

“You wouldn’t see routine raids on people, that would be disproportionate.”

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