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Heathrow calls for quarantine exit plan

The announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that a 14-day quarantine period will now be imposed on air travellers arriving in the United Kingdom has effectively spelt the end - for now at least - of any travel by air to the UK. Other than those who may still be arriving on repatriation flights, there won't be many who can spend two weeks in isolation before going about their business.

UK citizens who might have been able to travel for work purposes, including journalists returning home, can of course work from wherever they happen to be; that's one of the necessary skills of being a journalist reporting on international affairs. That however, doesn't apply to most. Despite the easing of some restrictions, both in the UK and elsewhere, current limits of travel are still in place and a 14-day quarantine is going to exacerbate this.

The airport is supporting the Government’s aim of avoiding a second wave of infection, even though the 14 day quarantine plan will effectively close borders temporarily. Nevertheless, it is likely that few passenger flights will operate and even less people will travel until the quarantine is lifted. Demand is thus expected to remain weak until governments everywhere lift lockdowns.

Passenger numbers at Heathrow were down 97% in April with the airport supporting essential travel for just 200,000 people in the entire month – the same number it would typically serve in just one day. Many of those passengers were on board the 218 charted repatriation flights that landed at the west London airport.

A total of 1,788 cargo only flights operated from Heathrow in April, helping to bring in critical supplies of PPE. The busiest day was 30th April, with 95 dedicated cargo movements – 14 times the usual daily average pre-COVID. Even so, cargo volumes at Britain’s biggest port were down over 60%.