Heathrow boss demands mass coronavirus screenings at British airports

Heathrow boss demands mass coronavirus screenings at British airports, including temperature checks, antibody tests and mandatory ‘health passports’

  • Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye has written to Matt Hancock 
  • Wants an internationally agreed standard of measures to check passengers 
  • Mr Holland-Kaye will tell Mr Hancock that airports are coming in for unfair criticism over the Government’s decision not to test
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

The boss of Heathrow is urging ministers to introduce mass screening at airports, the Daily Mail can reveal. 

In a major intervention, chief executive John Holland-Kaye is writing to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to demand stringent regulations to combat coronavirus. 

The airport’s bosses want an internationally agreed standard of measures, which could include temperature checks, antibody tests and a requirement that all passengers carry health passports proving they are medically fit. 

They also want Public Health England (PHE) to release data proving the Government’s claims that temperature screening is ineffective. 

Passengers from the Holland America Line ship Zaandam walk through arrivals in Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London, after flying back on a repatriation flight from Florida


The airport’s boss John Holland-Kaye (left) has written to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock (right) to demand stringent regulations to combat coronavirus

The concourse at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, London,  is empty during the normally busy Easter getaway, as the UK continues in lockdown

The demand for action from the head of Britain’s biggest airport comes amid mounting anger over the total lack of checks and tests at the nation’s airports – decried by one senior industry figure as a ‘disaster’. 

Officials believe about 15,000 passengers are arriving unchecked into the UK every day, including 10,000 at Heathrow. 

Incredibly, not a single traveller is being checked for signs of coronavirus – even though thousands are arriving from virus-ravaged countries such as China, Italy and Iran. 

Britain’s approach is in stark contrast to other nations which have either closed their borders entirely, or introduced stringent checks on arriving passengers. 

These include measures such as mass temperature screening and mandatory quarantining. 

In the UK, temperature checks have not been introduced after PHE said they were ‘ineffective’ against a virus that can have an incubation period of up to 14 days. 

Experts said entry screening would detect only a small number of cases and the decision not to test was made by the Department of Health and Social Care. 

Instead, under a system of ‘enhanced monitoring’ passengers are handed information leaflets and told to self-isolate for 14 days after landing – although officials admit they have no way of enforcing this. 

Critics say the decision not to limit arrivals and check passengers threatens the health of the nation and makes a mockery of the lockdown conditions imposed on the rest of Britain.

Last night the powerful transport select committee confirmed plans to investigate the policy on airport testing. 

Mr Holland-Kaye will tell Mr Hancock that airports are coming in for unfair criticism over the Government’s decision not to test. 

‘Do not use this seat’ signs are places on seats at Heathrow Airport as the coronavirus lockdown continues

International travellers arrive at an almost deserted London Heathrow Airport as government policy of not screening arriving passengers comes under scrutiny

He has called for an international standard of screening to revive confidence in air travel once the pandemic is over, which could include permanent social distancing as well as temperature and antibody tests at British airports. 

Other airport bosses have said the absence of checks is creating a false impression that Britain’s airports are more dangerous than others, and warn it could have a long-term impact on passenger numbers. 

Public health experts also questioned the Government’s approach. 

Professor Gabriel Scally, of the Royal Society of Medicine, told the Financial Times: ‘The UK is an outlier. 

‘It is very hard to understand why it persists in having this open borders policy. It is most peculiar.’ 

A source at the Department for Transport told the Mail: ‘Our initial instinct was ‘oh my God, we should be testing everybody because who knows what they could be bringing in’. 

‘At the same time, we were being told that airport testing was probably the least effective way of controlling the arrival of the virus.

Yesterday 616 patients died, down from a peak of 980 and taking the official toll to 18,783

‘In the end, we decided to ask airlines to carry out checks on pas before they depart to the UK. 

‘This was a bit hit and miss. We could only regulate UK airlines at UK airports, so we had no way of making sure checks were being carried out in places like China.’ 

PHE said: ‘The decision not to introduce temperature screening was based on the best scientific evidence.’ 

The Airport Operators Association added: ‘UK airports are following current guidelines on screening of passengers… Should the views of experts change and guidance updated, airports will follow that advice.’

Matt Hancock reveals massive plan to ‘test, track and trace’ coronavirus victims as prelude to ending lock-down and reveals ANY ‘essential worker’ will be able to get a swab test from TOMORROW

By Sam Blanchard Senior Health Reporter for MailOnline and Stephen Matthews Health Editor for MailOnline  

Every essential worker and their family will be eligible for free coronavirus tests from tomorrow after the Government finally announced a three-step ‘test, track and trace’ battle plan to ease the UK out of lockdown.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tonight dramatically announced swab tests will be available for up to 7million Brits who show symptoms of the deadly disease and will no longer be restricted to health workers and hospital patients.

The scheme marks a long-awaited turning point in the Government’s policy and mirrors the rigorous regime used in South Korea, which bucked the trend by opting against lockdown and squashing its outbreak within weeks.

Authorities will push forward with more testing to keep track of who is currently infected with the virus and who has had it already. The true scale of Britain’s outbreak is currently a mystery because of Number 10’s controversial decision to abandon widespread testing more than a month ago.  

Downing Street will also train an ‘army’ of 18,000 civil servants to trace contacts of infected patients to try and prevent future outbreaks, which the World Health Organization says is the ‘backbone’ to curbing any epidemic.

The same key workers whose children have been allowed to remain at school since the lockdown was imposed 31 days ago on March 23 will now be able to order COVID-19 tests – if they feel ill – online or through their employers.

These include teachers and social workers, supermarket staff, lorry drivers, public transport staff, bankers, postal workers, bin collectors and utility workers. Members of their families will also be eligible for the tests.

Britain has 7.1million of these essential workers, according to an estimate by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and 42 per cent of them have at least one child under the age of 16.

Mr Hancock said tonight ‘I want to make it as easy as possible for people to get a test’ and said there are 31 places around the UK that offer them. People will be able to book the swabs online and will receive results by text.

Officials insist the UK is on track to meet its target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April, as Mr Hancock had promised, but statistics show that Britain is still only using half of its testing capacity.

Just 23,560 tests were done on 14,629 people yesterday even though there is capacity to do 51,000 tests per day, meaning the UK is only a fifth of the way to reaching the pledge with only a week left.

Drive-through testing centres have been seen deserted and scores of unwell NHS medics have spoken of having to travel hours to get tests, only to be told to come back another day when they have an appointment.

In tonight’s Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock was asked if ministers needed a scaled-up testing and tracing regime to be up-and-running before the strict lockdown can be eased.

But he dodged the question, instead saying there was ‘no automatic link’ between the two schemes and adding that he ‘wouldn’t put a deadline’ on when the three-step plan will be ready.

In other developments to Britain’s coronavirus crisis today:

  • Britons ignored lockdown rules to flock to parks and beaches as temperatures hit 75°F (23°C) – despite government pleas and warnings of fines;
  • Huge queues built up outside B&Q stores and Five Guys burger restaurants as parts of Britain showed signs that they were getting back to work;
  • Officials announced 616 more coronavirus victims – 37 per cent fewer than the 980 announced on April 10, the UK’s darkest day of the crisis;
  • Mr Hancock refused to bow to growing political pressure to set out how the British government will ease the lockdown, which was imposed 31 days ago on March 23;
  • Nicola Sturgeon published a blueprint for how to lift restrictions in Scotland amid growing anger over ministers continuing to keep their strategy secret;
  • British holidaymakers are facing a summer-long ban from Ibiza and Majorca due to the UK’s delayed lockdown – despite the islands’ plans to reopen to other nations in August;
  • Two thirds of the public think the media is failing to hold ministers to account at the daily press conferences;
  • Fury was sparked after a minister failed to apologise for a lack of PPE provided for NHS staff fighting to save lives from coronavirus;
  • A new mother died from coronavirus in hospital without being able to cuddle her son who she had given birth to just days before.

Department of Health figures show 22,000 tests were carried out in the UK on Tuesday, despite the Government having capacity to do more than 51,000

The Government’s plans for moving forward have emerged piecemeal today with announcements about population testing, an ‘army’ of contact tracing staff and offering swabs to key workers.

The ‘test, track, trace’ pledge breaks down into three key parts: 

 TEST: Test millions of essential workers and their families for current infection

Swab tests will be offered to all key workers and members of their family, if they have symptoms of COVID-19, from tomorrow, Hancock announced in today’s briefing.

These tests will involve swabbing the inside of the person’s nose and will tell someone if they are currently infected with the coronavirus. It will not tell if they have already had it.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced plans to open up testing to more members of the public at this afternoon’s coronavirus briefing in Downing Street

People will be able to order the tests online on the Government’s website, or through their employer if they don’t have internet access. 

After applying, people will receive an email or a text message that same day inviting them to book an appointment.

The tests will be done in one of five places:

Test results, which must be returned from a laboratory, will be sent by text message within 48 hours or within 72 hours of a home test being collected.   

WHO ARE THE KEY WORKERS?

  • All NHS and social care staff, including volunteers and support workers 
  • Producers and distributors of drugs and PPE
  • Workers in prisons, probation, courts, tribunals
  • Religious staff, such as vicars, imams, rabbis and pastors
  • Charities and workers delivering critical frontline services
  • Workers managing the deceased, such as undertakers
  • Journalists and broadcasters covering the coronavirus outbreak
  • Media workers providing public service broadcasting 
  • Police officers and support staff, such as PCSOs
  • Armed forces personnel, Ministry of Defence civilians and contractors
  • Fire and rescue service employees, including support staff
  • National Crime Agency staff, border security, and national security staff 
  • Workers looking after air, water, road and rail transport still operating
  • Staff maintaining transport systems through which supply chains pass
  • Education and childcare workers, including support and teaching staff
  • Social workers and specialist education professionals   
  • Workers producing and distributing food, drink and essential goods 
  • Staff who sell and deliver food, drink and essential goods 
  • Medical supply chain and distribution workers, including vets
  • Workers critical to the continuity of essential movement of goods
  • Critical local and national government staff 
  • Public and environmental health staff, including in government agencies
  • Local authority staff, including those working with vulnerable children and adults, with victims of domestic abuse, and with the homeless and rough sleepers
  • Staff needed for financial services provision, such as bank workers
  • Workers in the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors
  • IT and data infrastructure sector workers
  • Essential staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals and telecomms 
  • Postal workers and staff working in delivery

The exact wording of who classes as an essential worker can be found here. 

Swabs will be run through Government testing labs which, officials say, have the capacity to process 51,000 every day. 

Mr Hancock said today: ‘From today, employers of essential workers will be able to go on gov.uk to get a test for any of their staff who need a test. 

‘And from tomorrow, any essential workers who need a test will be able to book an appointment on gov.uk themselves directly. 

‘This all applies for people in essential workers’ households who need a test too. It’s all part of getting Britain back on her feet.’

The aim of the scaled up testing is to reduce the number of people who have to self-isolate from work if they fear they, or someone they live with, has symptoms of COVID-19.

If the person experiencing the symptoms tests negative the employee should be able to return to work.

On the list of essential workers, alongside NHS and social care staff and volunteers, are prison and court workers, religious leaders, funeral directors, journalists, police and support staff, military personnel and office staff and fire service employees.

Crime agency and border workers will also be included, along with utility workers, transport staff and maintenance workers, childcare workers and teaching staff, social workers, people who produce, sell or deliver food and drink, medical supply chain staff and veterinarians. 

Local government and environmental workers will also receive tests, as well as postal staff and financial workers such as bankers. 

The Government has so far put in a lacklustre performance on the testing front, not yet managing to rise above 24,000 tests in a day despite a pledge to hit 100,000 per day by next Thursday, April 30.

Capacity has been expanded with the opening of three government-run ‘Lighthouse Labs’ in Milton Keynes, Cheshire and Glasgow, and widening the criteria for who can get tested will push authorities much closer to this figure. 

According to the Insitute for Fiscal Studies there are 7.1million people in the UK – 22 per cent of the entire workforce – who fit the Government’s description of a key worker.

And their families will be included in the new testing scheme, too.

Almost half of those key workers (42 per cent) have at least one child of school age, the IFS data shows, and 46 per cent of them have partners who are in ‘non-key’ work.


There are 31 testing centres around the country which will be used to swab essential workers and their family members. They have the capacity to more than 51,000 tests per day, the Government says

TRACK: Random population testing for past and present infection to track the spread of the virus

The Department of Health announced today that it will start a widespread public testing scheme, split into two parts.

Thousands of people forming a representative sample of the population will be enrolled into either regular swab testing or antibody testing which will help authorities track where the coronavirus is spreading and where it has been already.

WHAT ARE THE TWO TYPES OF TEST THAT WILL BE USED? 

SWAB TEST 

Swab tests, technically known as PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, pick up on active viral infection.

A PCR test works by a sample of someone’s genetic material – their RNA – being taken to lab and worked up in a full map of their DNA as it looked at the time of the test.

This DNA can then be scanned to find evidence of the virus, which will be embroiled with the patient’s genetic material if they are infected at the time.

The PCR test is extremely reliable but can take a day or more to carry out. 

A positive result indicates that someone is currently infected with COVID-19. This type of test cannot tell whether someone has had the disease in the past, nor when they caught it.

ANTIBODY TEST

An antibody test is one which tests whether someone’s immune system is equipped to fight a specific disease or infection.

When someone gets infected with a virus their immune system must work out how to fight it off and produce substances called antibodies.

These are extremely specific and are usually only able to tackle one strain of one virus. For example, if someone catches COVID-19, they will develop COVID-19 antibodies for their body to use to fight it off.

The body then stores versions of these antibodies in the immune system so that if it comes into contact with that same virus again it will be able to fight it off straight away and probably avoid someone feeling any symptoms at all.

To test for these antibodies, medics or scientists can take a fluid sample from someone – usually blood – and mix it with part of the virus to see if there is a reaction between the two.

If there is a reaction, it means someone has the antibodies and their body knows how to fight off the infection – they are immune. If there is no reaction it means they have not had it yet.

A positive result indicates somebody has definitely had the COVID-19 infection at some point. They have likely recovered if they’re not ill at the time, but people may also test antibody positive while they are still ill.

Between 25,000 and 300,000 people will take part in the swab testing scheme which will continue over the next year. 

Everyone involved will complete a swab test every month to spot signs of current infection. This is intended to pick up on local outbreaks and see how the virus is circulating as the current crisis comes to an end.      

Picking up on these cases may be able to alert authorities to outbreaks in certain areas or to detect when large numbers of people are starting to test positive again and another outbreak is happening.

In a second branch of the tracking project, people in 1,000 households across the country will submit to monthly blood testing to see if they have immunity to the coronavirus.

These tests, called antibody tests or ‘have you had it’ tests, show whether someone has been infected with COVID-19 in the past and recovered. They are most accurate around three weeks or more after someone becomes infected.

Tracking the number of people who have developed immunity can give scientists a clear picture of how widely the virus has spread already, which may affect its ability to spread in the future.

The more people who test positive for antibodies, the fewer people there are who could get infected in a second outbreak. This is called herd immunity. 

Antibody testing, which has been picked up on much larger scale in other countries, forms a vital part of the Government’s ‘five-pillar’ testing strategy – but officials have so far only managed 4,900 tests and just 51 were done yesterday. 

The hope for this scheme is that, when rolled out more widely, it will give a clearer, more permanent picture of the size of the country’s outbreak and the extent to which the nation has developed herd immunity.

Currently, the numbers of people in hospital are the most accurate day-by-day measure but represent only a small proportion of all people infected.

The data can also be out of date because it may take a week or more for someone to become ill enough to need a hospital bed, and then up to three weeks, or longer, to recover.

Professor Ian Jones, a virus expert at the University of Reading, said today: ‘The newly announced tests should at last address the level of virus circulation in the community and, to a lesser extent, the level of past infections.

‘Together they will give important data on how prevalent the infection is and has been. Where this has been done elsewhere the level of infection has been 20 to 50 times higher than the known positives and we must wait to see if this is also the case in the UK.’ 

How much immunity people actually develop to the coronavirus after having it remains unclear.

Top scientists have admitted it is still possible that people are only protected for a short period of time and then become capable of spreading it or developing symptoms again. 

The Health Secretary said improving understanding of immunity levels is ‘vital’.

Of the antibody testing scheme, Mr Hancock said: ‘This survey will help to track the current extent of transmission and infection in the UK, while also answering crucial questions about immunity as we continue to build up our understanding of this new virus.

‘Together, these results will help us better understand the spread of the virus to date, predict the future trajectory and inform future action we take.’ 

TRACE: Trace contacts of infected patients and warn them they have been exposed to the virus 

The Government will launch a widespread contact tracing scheme to track down people who have been in touch with infected patients

An army of 18,000 contact tracers will be trained in the coming weeks to help Britain recover from its lockdown.

The job of these people will be to quiz anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus about who they have been in contact with and where they have been around the time they become ill and the days before it.

The tracers will make a list of people considered to have been put at risk by the patient, and those people will be notified that they might have the coronavirus.

If contacted by tracers, people will be asked to self-isolate and to be vigilant about changes in their health and about social distancing. If they become ill they will be tested.

If a contact becomes infected the same process begins for them and their social network. The idea is to keep track of how the virus moves through social circles and to try to stay a step ahead of it and prevent wider spread. 

Experts expect to be able to track at least 80 per cent of the people a coronavirus patient has come into contact with within 24 hours of diagnosis. 

Council staff and civil servants are expected to be at the frontline of this effort.

Chief executive of the NHS Confederation, a body that represents healthcare organisations, Niall Dickson, said: ‘This is an important moment as we see real commitment and details of how we will develop contract tracing to help us track and control the virus when the current restrictions are relaxed. 

‘The recruitment of an army of 18,000 tracers will be critical, though any strategy will need to be linked into local organisations.’

HOW WOULD AN NHS CONTACT-TRACING APP WORK?

According to researchers, the app being developed by NHSX would likely work as follows:

One key aspect of the Government’s contact tracing plan is believed to be its NHS app which is still in the development phase.

NHSX, the health service’s technological arm, is believed to have been working on software which uses bluetooth technology, alongside Google and Apple, who run the two main smartphone operating systems.

Mr Hancock explained: ‘If you become unwell with the symptoms of coronavirus you can securely tell this new NHS app and the app will then send an alert anonymously to other app users that you’ve been in significant contact with over the past few days, even before (they) have symptoms so that they know and can act accordingly.’

The app is currently being tested at a Royal Air Force base in North Yorkshire and Mr Hancock said the trials ‘are going well,’ the BBC reported.

Similar approaches have been used with success in Singapore and South Korea but there are concerns about privacy and that not enough people will sign up to use it.

Researchers at the University of Oxford warned it would only work effectively if 80 per cent of the population downloaded it and used it, but surveys had found this level of engagement would be unlikely in practice.   

Nevertheless, lower levels of uptake coupled with social distancing efforts would still help to slow the spread of COVID-19 and put off a second lockdown period. 

In fact, the Oxford team predicted that, regardless of overall uptake, a contact-tracing app could ‘prevent approximately one infection for every one or two users of the app.’ 

In America, campaigners have raised concerns about the way apps such as these could breach people’s privacy. It would have to share location data to be able to work, they said.

The American Civil Liberties Union said: ‘The systems must be widely adopted, but that will not happen if people do not trust them. For there to be trust, the tool must protect privacy, be voluntary, and store data on an individual’s device rather than in a centralized repository.’ 

UK’s testing farce: One drive-thru centre is only swabbing ‘four people a day’ as ministers bring in the Army and Amazon to ramp up capacity

Britain’s coronavirus testing farce was laid bare again today with claims that a drive-through centre is only swabbing a handful of people every day – with a week to go to meet the Government’s pledge of swabbing 100,000 people a day. 

The make-shift facility, in the car park of Port Glasgow Health Centre, Inverclyde, was set up on April 9 with ambitions of testing 100 people a week – who are either NHS workers or family members of medics.

A resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: ‘It has been very quiet so far. It looks like they are testing about four people a day. We overlook it and have barely noticed anyone using the centre. It is empty most of the time.’ 

The Army and Amazon have both been drafted in to help Number 10 scale up its testing response, with soldiers helping to ferry mobile testing units across the UK and the retail giant is delivering swabs to people’s homes.

Damning official figures show Britain is still miles away from reaching its pledge of carrying out 100,000 swabs each day, with Department of Health statistics showing only 22,000 were conducted yesterday.

Downing Street today claimed that Britain has the capacity to carry out 48,000 tests each day – but admitted less than half of that is being used and that there is still a ‘great deal more to do’ to close the gap.  

The UK lags behind many other comparable nations in testing, with an analysis showing it has swabbed just six people out of every 1,000 – half the rate of the US and four times lower than Italy. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s target was yesterday savaged by MPs as ‘arbitrary’ and ‘stupid’, after pictures of near-empty testing centres in London, Coventry and Brighton laid bare the true scale of the UK’s swabbing shambles. 

Ministers yesterday announced they were expanding the number of drive-through testing sites from 26 to 50. Other key workers will also now be eligible for tests, including transport workers and supermarket staff.

The move came after numerous horror stories of self-isolating and potentially very unwell workers having to travel for multiple hours to get tests only for some of them to be told to come back another day.


A drive-through testing centre in Cardiff is pictured empty this morning (left) while a soldier collected coronavirus testing samples at a centre in Southport (right) 

A spokesman NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: ‘At present the centre is seeing more patients on a daily basis and has the capacity to meet demand.

‘The Port Glasgow drive-through testing centre opened on Thursday April 9 and tests both symptomatic household members and symptomatic staff as per the current NHS GGC policy.

‘Across NHS GGC we are able to test health and social care staff who are self-isolating as they are symptomatic, or, those with a symptomatic household contact.’

The drive-through test centre runs on an appointment-only basis and it operates Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm.

During testing the person remains in the car and provides a swab.

All staff at the centre wear PPE and a pathway has been put in place to control the flow of traffic and ensure the safety of the public and staff. 

Downing Street today said 22,814 coronavirus tests were carried out on 13,522 people up to 9am on Wednesday in England, Scotland and Wales.

But it admitted that capacity is now at 48,273 – meaning Britain is only using up 47 per cent of its supply.

No10 acknowledged there is still a ‘great deal more to do’ to close the gap between capacity and the actual number of tests carried out.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘The number of people we’ve tested has increased in the most recent 24 hours we’ve got figures for.

‘And the gap between the number of people tested and the number of people we’ve tested has closed slightly.

‘But that doesn’t distract from the fact that there’s a great deal more to do if we’re to be able to say we’re making the full use of the capacity we have.

‘Mobile units will visit the care homes and test any residents and staff and separately we’re using Amazon to deliver tests to people’s homes.’

The spokesperson added that around 50 drive-through sites will be ready by end of the month with 28 already open. 

Other flagship NHS testing sites have stood empty this week, with pictures showing few people arriving to give any samples. 

Both Twickenham rugby stadium and Chessington World of Adventures in west London did not appear to have many patients arriving on Monday.  


Coronavirus testing was taking place yesterday in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey, pictured left, and at Twickenham stadium (right)


Empty coronavirus testing centres for NHS staff and registered care workers are pictured in Coventry (left) and Plymouth (right)

Yesterday it was revealed that trucks will ferry mobile testing units nationwide to screen NHS and social care workers. 

It came amid claims potentially thousands of NHS staff have been unable to get swabbed at the drive-through centres.

The scheme – backed by the military – will transport testing teams to hospitals and care homes across Britain, The Sun reports. 

General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, said: ‘We think the innovative idea of pop-ups, rather like mobile libraries, would be a very useful way of going.’ 

Last week it was revealed coronavirus swab kits would start to be delivered to homes by Amazon in a pilot scheme.

MPS BLAST THE 100,000 TESTS A DAY TARGET AS ‘STUPID’ 

There is rising Tory fury over Matt Hancock’s decision to set such a high bar, with senior figures concerned about the backlash which could follow if he fails to deliver on his promise. 

Some Conservative MPs believe Mr Hancock will have to ‘carry the can’ if he falls short of the target as they said he should have climbed down on the issue more than a week ago.

One senior Tory MP told MailOnline the target is ‘stupid’ and added: ‘Matt was extremely unwise to come up with such a high and round figure and to make a dogmatic commitment rather than an aspiration. 

‘He was under pressure at the time. If he wanted to reverse out of it he should have started reversing a week ago. It is pretty clear that he is not going to hit the target and he ought to be levelling with people.’   

A Number 10 insider echoed a similar sentiment, telling The Telegraph: ‘The problem is with this arbitrary target. There is a faint irrationality behind it, just because there was a clamour for mass testing. 

‘Hancock’s 100,000 target was a response to a criticism in the media and he decided to crank out tests regardless.

‘He’s not had a good crisis. The Prime Minister will say he has confidence in him but it doesn’t feel like that.’

The retail giant is sending send swabs to people’s homes and telling them to take a sample from their throats an hour before they are picked up again.

The results of the test will then be sent by text message. It is understood the pilot scheme – for 5,000 self-test kits – will begin with key workers. 

But the Daily Mail reported earlier this week that only 200 of the kits have been sent out so far because of a hold-up by officials. 

It comes after it was revealed last night that only one in four care home staff who fear they have coronavirus have been tested.

Managers say their staff face having to make four-hour round trips to test centres which are only accessible by car when many don’t even drive.

It means workers are being left stuck at home self-isolating unnecessarily but unable to return to the frontline where they are desperately needed. 

MPs and trade union bosses last night branded the ‘desperately’ low levels of testing in the care sector ‘appalling’.

Last week Mr Hancock said everyone working in social care who needed a test would be able to get one ‘immediately’.

But care workers showing symptoms of COVID-19 must be referred by their employer and then travel to one of the drive-through centres and wait two days for the results.

It means care workers already feeling unwell can face round trips of more than 200 miles to be tested. 

They have also been told they are not allowed to take public transport or taxis to the appointment – leaving those without a car no way of receiving the vital tests.

Data collected by the National Care Forum (NCF), which represents nonprofit providers, suggests just 25 per cent of care home staff needing tests have had them.

The NCF collected data from 21 members which together employ almost 16,000 care staff.

Of the 632 residential care staff needing tests only 164 had been tested, while just 19 of the 281 home carers had received a coronavirus test.

ONLY ONE IN FOUR CARE HOME STAFF ARE BEING TESTED FOR COVID-19 

Only one in four care home staff who fear they have coronavirus have been tested, it was revealed last night.

Managers say their staff face having to make four-hour round trips to test centres which are only accessible by car when many don’t even drive.

It means workers are being left stuck at home self-isolating unnecessarily but unable to return to the frontline where they are desperately needed. 

MPs and trade union bosses last night branded the ‘desperately’ low levels of testing in the care sector ‘appalling’.

Last week Mr Hancock said everyone working in social care who needed a test would be able to get one ‘immediately’.

But care workers showing symptoms of COVID-19 must be referred by their employer and then travel to one of the drive-through centres and wait two days for the results.

It means care workers already feeling unwell can face round trips of more than 200 miles to be tested. 

They have also been told they are not allowed to take public transport or taxis to the appointment – leaving those without a car no way of receiving the vital tests.

Four Seasons Health Care, one of Britain’s biggest private care providers, said many of its employees can’t get to test centres as they don’t drive.

Yesterday the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said three new testing laboratories are now complete.

The Lighthouse Labs in Milton Keynes, Glasgow and Alderley Park in Cheshire will be able to test tens of thousands of samples each day. 

Liz Kendall, Shadow Minister for Social Care, last night described the lack of testing system as ‘madness’.

‘There are desperately low levels of testing when we know it’s essential to save the lives of the most vulnerable,’ she said.

‘We’ve heard of appalling cases where care workers in Norfolk have been told to go to Sheffield and those in Peterborough to Stansted Airport.’ 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier set a much more ambitious testing target of 250,000 tests-a-day during a briefing on Mach 19.

But he did not attach a date to when that would be achieved. Official documents by the Department of Health say the target is 25,000 per day.

Britain, with 130,000 confirmed cases of the disease, is testing 6.11 people per 1,000 – 0.5 per cent of its population – according to the latest figures.

The UK sits well below nations with similar rates of infection, such as Italy, Germany and Spain.

All of Britain’s European neighbours are testing more than 20 people per thousand, according to statistics compiled by Oxford-led researchers.

Early testing for COVID-19 is seen by the World Health Organization (WHO) as crucial to bringing the pandemic under control.

No tests, no checks… and no sense: Hundreds of passengers arrive at Heathrow from virus hotspots – and they’re not even stopped for Covid-19 screening

By David Jones for the Daily Mail  

Even the blue face mask covering the Iranian-British businessman’s face couldn’t conceal his consternation as he emerged into the arrivals hall at Heathrow Airport.

Before boarding his Iran Air flight from Tehran, Farzad Parhizkar’s temperature – and those of the other 80 or so passengers – was checked by a laser-beam thermometer, he told me.

They had also been obliged to fill in a form giving such details as their name and address, destination, reason for travel, and whether they had any symptoms of coronavirus.

‘Then, when I arrive here in London, there is nothing at all,’ he said, his eyebrows raising above the mask.

‘There was no temperature check, no questions about my health, no advice on how to avoid catching the virus. Nothing. Everything was all just like the world is normal.’

International travellers arrive at an almost deserted London Heathrow Airport as government policy of not screening arriving passengers comes under scrutiny. Pictured: Passengers arriving from Tehran on Sunday

Passengers from the Holland America Line ship Zaandam walk through arrivals in Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London, after flying back on a repatriation flight from Florida

It was a criticism I heard repeatedly at Heathrow yesterday and on Sunday as I spoke to some of the 15,000 travellers who are – by Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s latest estimate – still flying into Britain every day.

Of these, the Department for Transport claims about 10,000 are landing at London’s main hub, while others are coming in through Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham.

At a time when the nation is in lockdown, the very fact that these airports remain open to commercial flights is surely questionable enough.

That we are continuing to welcome passengers from countries such as Iran, where the official Covid-19 death rate stood yesterday at 5,209 (though many believe the mullahs are lying and that it is considerably higher) seems like utter madness.

Yesterday morning, flights also arrived from New York – the city with the world’s highest number of coronavirus deaths, 13,869 – Los Angeles (California, 1,072 deaths), Chicago (Illinois, 1,290), Miami (Florida, 764), Dallas (Texas, 467) and Washington DC (624). 

Later, planes were due in from Rome, Madrid and Paris – three capitals at the epicentre of this pandemic – as well as from Tokyo, Lagos, Lisbon and Ahmedabad in India.

According to Heathrow’s website, the purpose of keeping the airport open is to help repatriate British citizens and import vital freight, such as medical equipment and food.

It points out that traffic has fallen by 75 per cent while cargo has increased by 200 per cent.

No one doubts these statistics. In fact, judging by the two days I spent at Heathrow, Mr Hancock’s 10,000 figure may now be an over-estimation. Of the five terminals, only numbers 2 and 5 remain in use, and they are eerily quiet.

No cafes or shops are open, except the chemist, no taxis line the ranks, you see very few staff, just a few cleaners and security guards milling about.

Disconcertingly, given that terrorists must surely be looking to exploit this vacuum, there is no visible police presence.

It is like a scene from Contagion, the dystopian film about a global pandemic that was released nine years ago – and has turned out to be uncannily accurate.

However, while Heathrow’s traffic has dropped dramatically – just 60 flights were due to arrive yesterday, less than a tenth of the number on any ordinary Monday – some of the passengers I met certainly weren’t making essential journeys.

Take 49-year-old Mr Parhizkar. A travelling furniture salesmen, his business takes him between Iran and Europe. He was passing through London – where he had to stay overnight – on his way to trade in Sweden, simply because he can no longer fly there directly.

According to Heathrow’s website, the purpose of keeping the airport open is to help repatriate British citizens and import vital freight, such as medical equipment and food

Had he been selling furniture from a shop in Britain, of course, his business would be closed.

Others making the six-and-a-half-hour journey from Iran included a couple visiting relatives in London (they wandered around the terminal, looking forlornly for transport into the city), a woman with two children who had been to see her ailing mother, and a Reading-based Iranian heating engineer who had also been with his sick mother.

They were, at least, impressed with the safety precautions on the flight. The attendants wore masks and regularly proffered hand sanitiser, they said.

Passengers not travelling together were encouraged to space themselves out by leaving seats empty, which was relatively easy as the 280-seat Airbus was only about one-third full.

But surely there are obvious perils in allowing people to travel here from Iran, where the safety standards set by the authorities and the manner in which people are interpreting them, differ markedly from our own?

‘From what I saw, people in Britain are much more cautious about the virus than they are in Iran,’ said the 55-year-old heating engineer, who gave only his first name, Babak. ‘People do practice social distancing there, but it’s far more casual.’

He suggested that this might be because Iran has a much younger population than Britain. Whatever the reason, I saw first-hand what he meant. On several occasions at the airport, I had to warn over-friendly Iranians not to come within two metres of me.

Babak also described how the lockdown has been loosened in Iran during the past few days. Some shops are opening, and people are starting to go out and mix again, he said. Clearly, then, their strategy is very different to that of the British Government.

Disembarking in Terminal 5, after an overnight British Airways flight from America, Prague-based IT worker Ferdinand Habl, 32, was on a marathon journey – one that must have brought him into contact with an untold number of people and objects.

It had taken him first from Phoenix, Arizona, where the number of those infected remains relatively low and attitudes to the lockdown are correspondingly relaxed (with people continuing to attend huge church gatherings, for example) to Boston, Massachusetts.

There are no cafes or shops are open, except the chemist, no taxis line the ranks at Heathrow Airport following the outbreak of coronavirus

At the weekend, after virus deaths in this small north-eastern state rose sharply to 1,560, its governor declared: ‘We’re right in the middle of the surge now.’

Mr Habl, a German national who also wore a mask, boarded a Heathrow-bound flight in Boston.

He hoped to find a connection to his home city of Munich – but was prepared to sleep at a friend’s flat in London if this wasn’t possible.

Aware of the rigorous testing and contact-tracing policy that has proved so effective in Germany, he was ‘surprised’ to have been allowed to breeze across the US and the Atlantic to London – a distance of 5,267 miles – without one single health check.

‘Because I’m a European citizen I didn’t even have to talk to anyone at your passport desk – I just used the automatic machine,’ Mr Habl said, shaking his head with disbelief.

The Government’s stance on air travel is that screening incoming passengers at this stage of the pandemic would be futile.

As Mr Hancock said late last week: ‘We don’t test at airports because the number of people coming through has dropped dramatically. Scientists say the epidemiological impact of keeping travel open is very small, because there’s already large transmission here.’

Perhaps so, yet driving away from Heathrow along the near-deserted M25, it was ironic to pass sign after sign urging motorists to make ‘essential journeys only’.

Millions of Britons are dutifully complying with this edict.

For anyone flying here, however, even if they are coming from the world’s deadliest Covid-19 hotspots, the door to Lockdown Britain remains wide open. 

 

 

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