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Stansted Airport bosses call on Government to restore passengers' confidence

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Disappointed Stansted Airport bosses have called on the Government to restore confidence and confirm international flights can resume next month.

Earlier on Friday (April 9) Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested summer holidays abroad were a realistic prospect and pledged to work to reduce the cost of Covid-19 tests for passengers.

The Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield also added some details to the proposed traffic light system to categorise countries by coronavirus risk and confirmed travel could recommence no earlier than May 17.

Transport Secretary and MP for Welwyn Hatfield Grant Shapps (46006542)
Transport Secretary and MP for Welwyn Hatfield Grant Shapps (46006542)

A spokesman for Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which operates Stansted, said: "Today's announcement provides an initial framework for restarting international travel and creates the opportunity for people to visit foreign countries over the coming months.

"However, it is clear further work is needed in a number of areas to give travellers the confidence to book trips and set the UK's aviation sector on a road to full recovery.

"Government needs to publish which countries will be in the green, amber and red categories of the 'traffic light' system at the earliest opportunity and confirm that travel can resume from May 17.

Stansted Airport terminal (46006838)
Stansted Airport terminal (46006838)

"We also share the Transport Secretary's concern about the affordability of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, and we want to work urgently with Government to help it deliver on its commitment to driving down these costs.

"The publication of this framework comes as the UK begins handing out free lateral flow tests to anyone in Britain, as the nation prepares to enjoy a fresh easing of lockdown restrictions and at a point when the UK is leading the world on vaccinations.

"That is why it is hugely disappointing it does not include a category for restriction-free travel – something that represents a backward step from the travel corridors in place last year.

"Building strong partnerships with foreign countries and sharing data about variants of concern is key to removing the need for testing on return and should be the Government's primary focus.

Testing is available at Stansted Airport (46006929)
Testing is available at Stansted Airport (46006929)

"This framework is only the first step, and the Government must use its June 28 review of the system to enable restriction-free travel as part of a full roadmap to restoring people's freedom to travel to visit friends and relatives, see new places and establish vital trading connections."

According to the Government, passengers will have to take coronavirus tests before leaving and on returning from even the lowest risk, or 'green', countries. A preliminary list is expected to be published in early May. Travellers to 'green' destinations will not need to quarantine on return.

'Amber' designation means holidaymakers will need to quarantine for 10 days, as well as taking a pre-departure test and two PCR tests.

Social distancing at passport control at Stansted. Pic: Vikki Lince (46006835)
Social distancing at passport control at Stansted. Pic: Vikki Lince (46006835)

Anyone travelling to a 'red' country will have to pay for a 10-day stay in a managed quarantine hotel on return, as well as a pre-departure test and two PCR tests.

Mr Shapps said PCR tests analysed in a laboratory were necessary to detect variants of the virus but he was "concerned" about the cost – around £120 – for each analysis and said he would work with the private sector to reduce the bill.

Nearly 40 countries are currently on the Government's red list of countries from which travel is banned, except for British and Irish nationals and those with residence rights in the UK.

Further reviews of the rules are expected on June 28, July 31 and October 1.

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