Coronavirus: Heathrow trialling passenger temperature checks

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The boss of Heathrow Airport has told MPs that it is trialling large-scale temperature checks as the aviation industry struggles with coronavirus.

He said they are already being carried out at departure gates on people going to places where this is a requirement.

John Holland-Kaye urged the government to produce a plan on what common standards airports should adopt.

“If you want to get the UK economy started again, you have to get the aviation sector started again.”

Mr Holland-Kaye said the introduction of common standards would allow airlines to start flying again more frequently. Thousands of flights have been cancelled due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

“We can avoid companies taking decisions about job reductions in a vacuum,” he said.

‘Cannot afford to wait’

The chief executive of Europe’s busiest airport told the Transport Select Committee: “If we are told that the only solution until we can get a vaccine in 12 to 18 months’ time is to socially distance in an airport, then tens of thousands of jobs will be cut.

“We cannot afford to wait that long to get flying again,” he added.

Several airlines have written to the government suggesting a “graded system” of restrictions for aircraft aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

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Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, told MPs on Wednesday that airlines have outlined three levels of measures, with the idea that each country adopts a specific level.

Any flight between two destinations would have to comply with the highest level, with staff wearing personal protective equipment and all passengers wearing masks under the strictest level three, for example.

In a previous interview with BBC News, Mr Holland-Kaye said that until a coronavirus vaccine could be developed, airports would have to introduce measures to minimise infection once lockdowns started to ease.

“As you go through the airport, you will probably be wearing a face mask, as people from Asia have been doing ever since Sars (virus) came out,” he said.

Government support

On Wednesday, the Heathrow boss called for additional government support for the aviation sector as it battles with the coronavirus crisis.

He argued that the French, German and US governments, who have provided large, bespoke rescue packages for their aviation industries saw them as “fundamental”, and suggested that was not the case in the UK.

“It’s not clear the (UK) government understands the strategic role that aviation plays for the economy”, he said.

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Airlines such as Virgin Atlantic have seen passenger numbers slump as countries close borders and enact travel bans

The Transport Select Committee was told that large numbers of frontline jobs at Heathrow were at risk unless operations resumed soon.

The hearing follows the announcement by Virgin Atlantic on Tuesday that it is cutting more than 3,000 jobs in the UK and ending its operation at Gatwick airport for the time being.

Virgin Atlantic, which is in the process of applying for emergency loans from the government, said that jobs will be lost across the board.

The airline currently employs a total of about 10,000 people.

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