Heathrow to close one of it runways during coronavirus outbreak

Heathrow is to close one of its runways from next week ‘to increase resilience and safety’ during coronavirus outbreak after Britons returning from abroad say they breezed through airport security with no testing or quarantine advice

  • Heathrow will operate landings and takeoffs from one runway from April 6
  • Move is to increase safety of staff and passengers amid coronavirus outbreak 
  • Passengers arriving at Heathrow yesterday said there was lack of medical advice
  • One passenger said that they were unsure if they needed to go into quarantine
  • Another traveller said guidance needed to be provided about social distancing

Heathrow will close one of its runways next week as air traffic continues to fall globally amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision comes after furious passengers returning to the UK said there was a lack of medical advice at the airport. 

The London hub will operate its landings and takeoffs from one strip from Monday April 6 to ‘increase resilience and safety for staff, passengers and cargo’ during the pandemic.

The airport has two runways and will alternate which one they keep open on a weekly basis, a spokesman said.

The airport added: ‘Although we are seeing significantly fewer flights at the moment, Heathrow will remain open so that we can continue to play a crucial role in helping to secure vital medical goods and food for the nation during this unprecedented epidemic.’

Heathrow Airport will operate its landings and takeoffs from one strip from Monday April 6 to ‘increase resilience and safety for staff, passengers and cargo’ during the pandemic  

Yesterday, passengers returning to the UK from abroad hit out at the lack of testing and medical advice being issued by airport staff amid the pandemic.

Some Britons arriving to London’s Heathrow Airport said they were left ‘shocked’ by the very few health checks being carried out and the lack of medical advice available which left them unsure about whether to go into quarantine. 

It comes after British Airways struck a deal with its unions to suspend more than 30,000 cabin crew and ground staff in one of the airline industry’s most dramatic moves yet to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

With global travel in turmoil as the virus takes hold around the world, BA’s owner, IAG, said it would also cut capacity by 90 per cent in April and May, and scrap its dividend, in a desperate bid to survive the worst crisis in its history.

With BA having already agreed a 50 per cent pay cut for its pilots, the deal focuses on cabin and ground crew, engineers and office staff. 

It comes after union chiefs announced that BA will furlough a large majority of its workforce on 80 per cent pay. 

The airline will introduce its own modified version of the government’s job retention scheme, according to the Unite union.  

Unlike the government scheme, there will be no cap on earnings, union chiefs said.

Workers will be able to divert their pension contributions into their pay for a short period of time and there will be no unpaid temporary lay offs or redundancies, said Unite, adding that a redundancy process that had already begun has been halted.

BA boss Alex Cruz also revealed that he won’t take a salary for two months.

Despite a surge in the number of coronavirus cases across the country, travellers claimed they were left breezing through security as though it was ‘a normal working day’.   

One passenger Mete Coban, a 27-year-old charity pioneer and Hackney councillor, who returned to Heathrow Airport from the U.S. on March 16, said: ‘Considering just how seriously authorities were treating Covid-19 in the US, I was shocked at just how little the UK authorities seemed to care when arriving at Heathrow.

One passenger Mete Coban (left), 27, who returned to Heathrow Airport from the U.S. on March 16, said it was ‘completely irresponsible that we’re not at least providing guidance to people about social distancing’

‘I think it’s completely irresponsible that we’re not at least providing guidance to people about social distancing and giving medical advice.’

While Chloe Sloggett, a 24-year-old aesthetics practitioner from north London, who arrived at Heathrow on Saturday with her fiancé Toby Hastie, said there were far more medical checks in place in Cambodia and Malaysia than upon her arrival in the UK.

Ms Sloggett, who has been self-isolating since returning home, said: ‘As we walked through Heathrow there were posters to explain dos/don’ts and signs to keep two metres’ distance, but no-one there was enforcing it.

‘We had our temperature checked in Phnom Penh (Cambodia) twice and then again in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), but nothing when we landed in the UK.’  

Meanwhile Marc Wilson, a 33-year-old postman from Southampton, said he was similarly confused by a lack of advice on what to do upon his arrival from Guatemala via Mexico and the US.

Mr Wilson, who landed at Heathrow on Sunday morning, said: ‘In the Americas, I was checked at every land border, every flight, I had doctors asking me questions.

‘I landed at Heathrow and there was no advice or anything. I couldn’t see any answers online whether I had to go in quarantine or not.’   

The Department of Health said the advice for all Britons, whether returning to the UK or not, was the same – to stay at home and only leave if essential.

However, other countries have introduced strict quarantine measures for those entering the country.

Meanwhile Marc Wilson, 33, from Southampton, said he was not issued with any advice about whether he needed to go into quarantine when he arrived at Heathrow

This includes in the US and New Zealand, where travellers must isolate themselves for 14 days upon arrival.

Nick Russell, who is due to return to the UK from Auckland in the coming days, said confusion reigned over whether he and his wife would be subject to quarantine.

Mr Russell, from Berkshire, said: ‘We have very little idea what happens when we arrive at Heathrow.

‘Will we be escorted to some compulsory 14-days quarantine facility? Can we be met by a friend to take us home? What can we do when we arrive home?

‘There are simply no written answers we can find on the Government website.’ 

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