Scrap amber list and testing for the double jabbed, says Heathrow boss

Heathrow Airport has called on the government to scrap all testing for double vaccinated travellers as it struggles to recover from business lost to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UK’s largest airport has also urged authorities to remove the amber list and instead create a “safe but simple two-tier system” comprised of just a green and a red list.

Under these proposals, fully vaccinated arrivals from green list locations would no longer be required to take a test, whereas those who are not fully vaccinated would need to take lateral flow tests pre-departure and post-arrival.

Only those who test positive would need to take a more expensive PCR test.

New figures announced by the transport hub reveal that it has gone from being the busiest airport in Europe in 2019 to number 10 in the rankings, with competitors Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam’s Schiphol recovering at a much faster pace.

Heathrow reports that passenger numbers remain 71 per cent down in August compared with the same month pre-pandemic with “every-changing restrictions, expensive and unnecessary testing requirements and lack of a common approach across borders continue to hinder the UK’s economic recovery.”

In a statement, it describes the current traffic light system as an “outlier” that is “delaying the government’s Global Britain ambitions, handing rivals a competitive advantage while the UK loses market share.”

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: ‘The government has the tools to protect the UK’s international competitiveness which will boost the economic recovery and achieve its ‘global Britain’ ambitions.

“If ministers fail to take this opportunity to streamline the travel rules then the UK will fall further behind as trade and tourists will increasingly bypass the UK.”

The government’s next travel update is expected to be announced on or around 16 September, with changes likely coming into effect at 4am the following Monday (20 September).

However, there have been rumours that the wider traffic light system is expected to be scrapped.

The BBC reported that a new approach “would allow vaccinated travellers to go to countries with similarly high levels of vaccination as the UK without the need for quarantine”.

The government has reportedly asked senior travel industry leaders to make proposals for a new system around international travel, which will replace the current traffic light lists.

Elsewhere, the PC Agency’s CEO, Paul Charles, who has been sharing industry updates throughout the pandemic, tweeted: “The traffic light system is expected to be scrapped by 1st Oct – at last. Airlines and some of us in the sector are aware of plans to create a simpler system, where countries are either red or not. This would be the US model in effect, which I’ve been calling for.”

The Department for Transport has not confirmed any changes to the travel system so far, saying only: “Our international travel policy is guided by one overwhelming priority – protecting public health.

“The next formal checkpoint review will take place by 1 October 2021.”

The checkpoint the DfT is referring to is the global travel taskforce review, which is a separate review of the travel system to the usual traffic light list updates.

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