London Heathrow Airport Photo: BristolPost UK

Heathrow’s COVID-19 tests required for years even with vaccine, says CEO

*Coronavirus testing must go hand-in-hand with immunisation if international travel is to return to meaningful levels ─ John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive Officer

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

Even long after a vaccine for immunisation against the disruptive Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is available, the Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom (UK) has said airline passengers yet will need to take virus tests before flying for years.

John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Heathrow Airport, in an interview with Bloomberg TV Wednesday, November 11, 2020, said the Europe’s busiest airport before the pandemic still would require continuous testing in view of the time required for a global vaccine roll-out.

Holland-Kaye disclosed this measure means testing must go hand-in-hand with inoculation if international travel is to return to meaningful levels.

He stated: “Even with the UK getting early access to a vaccine it’ll take a year and a half to vaccinate the entire country.

“It’s going to take much longer before even the fastest vaccine can really have a massive impact around the world.”

International flights have barely revived from groundings earlier this year as countries impose travel curbs to stem fresh outbreaks of the Coronavirus.

While Pfizer Inc.’s announcement of a vaccine that appears to prevent 90% of infections buoyed airline stocks, it’s not clear how air-transport regulators will respond and how quickly the breakthrough will benefit the industry.

Holland-Kaye further noted that the current imperative is to quickly introduce COVID-19 tests for people arriving in the UK from high-risk areas in order to slash quarantine periods that are putting almost all potential customers off flying.

Later, pre-departure tests should see people screened 72 hours before flying and again on landing, potentially obviating the need for self-isolation.

Testing could ultimately be eased as countries get the disease under control, aided by a vaccine, though it may take “a number of years to get to that point.”

Heathrow has been Europe’s busiest airport for years, though Paris Charles De Gaulle overtook it in the first nine months after UK quarantines introduced to fight the virus hammered air traffic.

The London hub’s passenger tally was down 82% last month compared with a year earlier, it reported Wednesday, with the normally lucrative North American market slumping 95%.

The airline expects business to pick up December 2020 once Britain ends its lockdown and introduces basic at-airport testing, though further job losses are likely on top of a 30% cut in management, according to Holland-Kaye.

He disclosed Heathrow still aims to avert redundancies among front line staff in negotiations with unions.

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