Virgin Atlantic joins calls for airport testing regime

posted on 9th September 2020 by Eddie Saunders
Virgin Atlantic joins calls for airport testing regime

By Edward Thicknesse,

Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive has added his voice to calls for airport testing to replace the government’s blanket quarantine regime, saying it is the “only way” to get the economy going again.

Speaking to the BBC this morning, Shai Weiss said: “The economy, which is already in deep recession will not take off unless we have travel and tourism back on track and the only way to do that, I believe, in the interim period before treatment and vaccine are made possible, is through testing”.

The aviation sector is united in its calls for ministers to replace the current restrictions, which mean that the vast majority of people entering the UK have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Instead, airlines and travel firms have urged the government to copy countries such as Germany and Iceland, which have been running an airport testing regime for several months.

This morning German flag carrier Lufthansa announced that it would expand its coronavirus testing centre at Frankfurt Airport. It said that it had carried out 150,000 tests in July and August, with 97 per cent of results returned within 24 hours.

Thus far, the government has resisted the calls to impose testing, with Boris Johnson saying that it could give a “false sense of security”.

This morning, transatlantic corporate group British American Business (BAB), which represents more than 400 firms, urged ministers to test all travellers 48 hours before flying to allow them to be released from quarantine earlier.

Weiss added that Virgin Atlantic was aiming to fly at 50 per cent capacity in 2021, up from 25 per cent for 2020 as a whole.

The airline has just completed a £1.2bn rescue deal after months of uncertainty due to the coronavirus crisis. Weiss said that the funding should be sufficient to keep it flying.