Heathrow Demands Mass Coronavirus Screenings of Airport Arrivals

Passengers wear face masks as the push their luggage after arriving from a flight at Terminal 5 of London Heathrow Airport in west London on January 28, 2020. - Chinese President Xi Jinping said Tuesday the country was waging a serious fight against the "demon" coronavirus outbreak and pledged transparency …
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

The chief executive of London’s Heathrow Airport has written to health secretary Matt Hancock demanding mass coronavirus screenings at all British airports after the government has insisted on keeping Britain’s borders fully open with no restrictions in place.

The Daily Mail revealed on Thursday that John Holland-Kaye had written the letter calling for a set of measures which could include temperature checks or antibody tests. He also suggested requiring all airline passengers to carry documentation proving they are medically fit to enter the country.

The call comes after Mr Hancock revealed that there are 100,000 unscreened arrivals a week, some 15,000 passengers flying into the UK every day of which 10,000 fly into Britain’s largest airport, Heathrow, including from high-infection countries China, Italy, and Iran.

Heathrow Airport confirmed that Mr Holland-Kaye had sent the letter to Mr Hancock on Thursday. A spokesman told the Financial Times on Friday: “As a global hub airport, Heathrow will need to adopt the highest international standards, even if that takes us beyond those required by the UK government. However, we believe that the UK government could provide a lead in defining that common international standard, as they have done with security standards.”

Last week, a Heathrow border patrol officer blew the whistle on staff’s fears of more cases of the Chinese virus coming into the country unchecked, calling for the introduction of screening. He also revealed rising sickness amongst his colleagues, including two fatalities due to coronavirus.

While 130 countries have introduced travel bans, quarantines, screenings, and even border lockdowns, the UK remains unique in locking down her people in their own homes but allowing international free movement to continue.

Professor Gabriel Scally, the president of epidemiology and public health at the Royal Society of Medicine, told the Financial Times last week: “The UK is an outlier.

“It is very hard to understand why it persists in having this open borders policy. It is most peculiar.”

The health secretary and government scientists have so far claimed that a border shutdown would be effectively pointless because the virus was already widely spread amongst the British population.

“We don’t test at airports because the number of people coming through has dropped dramatically,” health secretary Hancock had told British broadcaster ITV last week. “The epidemiological impact of keeping travel open is very small because there’s already large transmission here.”

However, Professors Scally said that it was wrong to reject a border shut down because it was not a “magic bullet” cure, saying: “Travel restriction by itself is of course not going to do the job. But all of these things are additive. It all adds up to beating the virus.”

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage had criticised the government for forcing Britons into lockdown whilst allowing planes from Milan, Tehran, and Beijing to continue to arrive, saying when the lockdown measures were introduced: “It’s all too late.”

Mr Farage said of the reported letter on Friday: “Two months into the crisis and only now are the authorities considering screening arrivals at UK airports. In the subsequent enquiry, the word will be ‘negligence’.”

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