Heathrow Airport will get a new runway by late 2020s

Airlines and airports scrap Covid restrictions as infections rise

Image credit: Tony Hisgett

The airline industry has praised the government’s decision to scrap Covid restrictions at airports.

The UK is one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining travel restrictions even though Covid infections are on the rise once again. The last week has seen a 25 per cent increase in cases to over 170,000, with hospitalisations also rising over 10 per cent.

From this Friday, all travel restrictions will be lifted, including the passenger locator form for arrivals into UK, as well as all tests for passengers who do not qualify as vaccinated. The change removes the need for unvaccinated passengers to take a pre-departure test and a 'day two' post-arrival test.

The government said the changes are being implemented due to the success of the vaccine rollout, with 86 per cent of the population now having received a second dose and 67 per cent with a booster or third dose.

Face coverings at Heathrow Airport will no longer be mandated in its terminals, rail stations or office buildings from tomorrow.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have welcomed the move and signalled that they will be revising their own onboard face-covering policies as well.

However, Heathrow Airport still plans to keep “an extensive array” of other Covid measures in place and face coverings will be available at the airport for those wanting to wear them and it “strongly encourages” people to do so.

Should a significant rise in Covid cases or a future variant of concern materialise, Heathrow said it would not hesitate to reinstate the mandatory use of face coverings.

Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow’s CEO, said: “We have worked hard to keep our passengers and colleagues safe during the pandemic. We acted quickly to institute face coverings as one of our first lines of defence and we’re pleased that we’re now able to move away from a mandatory requirement as society learns to live with Covid longer term.

“While we still recommend wearing them, we can be confident the investments we’ve made in Covid-secure measures – some of which aren’t always visible – combined with the fantastic protection provided by the vaccine will continue to keep people safe while travelling.”

The Department for Transport said it will maintain a range of contingency measures in reserve in order to protect public health if necessary. The government’s default approach from now on will be to use the least stringent measures to minimise the impact on travel as far as possible.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “The UK is leading the world in removing all remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions. I said we wouldn’t keep travel measures in place for any longer than necessary, which we’re delivering on today – providing more welcome news and greater freedom for travellers ahead of the Easter holidays.”

Jason Mahoney, CEO of British Airways, said: “We welcome this as a really positive step forward. As an international airline, we fly to a large number of countries around the world, all of which have their own local restrictions and legal requirements.

“We’re working through these and, from Wednesday March 16, customers will only be required to wear a face covering on board our flights if the destination they’re travelling to requires it. For destinations where the wearing of a face covering is not mandated, our customers are able to make a personal choice and we kindly request everyone respects each other’s preferences.”

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