Three UK airports are implementing plans to force passengers to wear gloves and face masks The Telegraph reported yesterday. Manchester, East Midlands and Stansted airports will bring in the rules this week as the UK government is accused of being slow to act on post-coronavirus air travel.
Passengers required to provide PPE
The move by Manchester, East Midlands, and Stansted airports will require travelers to bring their own face masks and gloves, although a backup supply of PPE will be on standby. The three airports also plan to trial temperature checks for all passengers on entry to the terminal. Furthermore, there will be a requirement for passengers to make a health declaration.
This is the first action of its kind from airports in the UK and comes after the CEO of London Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye, said on Friday that social distancing at airports was “physically impossible.” Holland-Kaye insists that a better solution would be the wearing of masks and health screening.
Simple Flying reached out to Manchester Airports Group for comment. Group Press Office Manager, Louis Blake responded saying:
“MAG can confirm that it will be piloting various new safety measures at its airports later this week. They are designed to help the small number of passengers currently making essential journeys through our airports feel safer and more confident about flying at this time. We will be providing confirmation of exact guidance for passengers, to allow them to fully prepare for their journey, before the measures are put in place.”
He also said that they would be likely to accept not just masks, but any face covering, such as scarves.
UK government not consulting airports
Over 60 million people combined pass through Manchester, East Midlands and Stansted airports every year. This plan by the three facilities is being implemented as the government is accused of not working with airports on “how air travel will function when the coronavirus lockdown is lifted.”
The Recovery and Restart Group is a task force set up by the Department of Transport several weeks ago to consider plans for the safety of airports when UK air travel resumes. However, airports have not been consulted by the task force about the safeguards that will be needed to protect travelers.
The Chief Executive of Manchester Airports Group, Charlie Cornish, has said that it’s vital that the government and the aviation industry work together to create a set of proposals that are clear and workable so that they can lead talks with other countries. He agrees with Heathrow Airport’s CEO, saying:
“It’s clear that social distancing does not work on any form of public transport.”
He also said that a package of measures had been put on the table for discussion by UK airports, saying:
“We now need the government to work urgently with airports and airlines to agree how we operate in the future.”
Expectations of a summer travel rush
The need for urgent action comes amid growing expectations that there may be a rush for air travel as lockdown restrictions are lifted in the UK and across Europe. Families that had given up hope of a summer holiday abroad might yet head for European beaches as they rediscover their new-found freedom.
However, if all air passengers are required to wear face masks, there are fears that the spike in demand could lead to the widespread panic buying of PPE as well as exploitation of the public by unscrupulous sellers. It could also mean supply shortages for frontline workers.
Perhaps the UK government could follow the lead of Spain, where rules have been laid down that the public can only buy one mask each at a maximum price of €0.98 per mask. Vendors that don’t follow the regulations face heavy penalties.
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