Coronavirus

European Airports Work On Safety, Screening Plans

Airports will put together uniform regulations for coronavirus once lockdowns ease

Under pressure from constituents worried about health and looming relaxations of quarantine, European airports have begun drawing up guidelines for how to act in the best interest of health once travel becomes more common again.

The guidelines will respond to a recent incident at London’s Heathrow, in which the airport faced criticism after not having temperature checks at the door.

Italy and China have begun conducting body temperature checks at airports, but the U.K. has not. Temperature screenings are not recommended by Public Health England, which said the checks would likely not do very much, only catching a small minority of COVID-19 cases. Symptoms of the highly contagious disease don’t usually appear until 5 to 7 days after infection, so Public Health England instead recommends planes send early warnings of any passenger illnesses ahead of landing.

But there are no overall guidelines. With several European governments planning eventual releases from the quarantines necessitated by the lethal virus spread, there will need to be precautions set in place; ACI Europe, trade body for airport operators, is working on standardizing them. The end goal will be to have “harmonization” among airports with guidelines for handling virus after the worst of the pandemic passes.

ACI Europe plans to have that done by May, and will then work with ACI Global, which represents the whole world’s airports, afterwards.

Flight rates have fallen by around 90 percent since the pandemic kicked into high gear earlier this year and countries began locking down.

Global trade body Iata said a major concern would be to put in place precautions to prevent reinfections of COVID-19.

And cabin crew unions say they’ve noticed irregularities in the implementation of safety gear like masks. Many planes, while having the equipment available, haven’t required crew to wear them.

Iata director-general Alexandre de Juniac was under no illusions about being able to simply return to how it was before the pandemic, but said the industry would have to adapt and move on, with possible new rules about social distancing, screening checks and other safety measures potentially on the table.

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