Airports have come under fresh fire for adopting a lackluster response to the coronavirus crisis after a striking picture showed a Heathrow employee as the only person not wearing a mask.
The worker was photographed pushing a woman in a wheelchair, who is likely vulnerable to the disease.
It came as the UK was revealed to be one of only two countries enforcing zero health checks at the border – the other being Jordan.
The person who took the picture, who has asked to remain anonymous, also claimed that only half of the staff on their BA flight wore a mask and was told by a steward they were ‘optional’.
Both Heathrow and BA insist they are following government guidance, which does not mandate mask-wearing.
However, both have provided personal protective equipment to their staff and just not gone as far as making it obligatory.
The photo suggests the staff are out of step with the public mood, which is increasingly leaning towards wearing masks.
As the UK continues to wrestle down the pandemic:
- Britons were warned not to flout lockdown rules on a sunny bank holiday weekend;
- The nation fell silent to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day;
- The public were ‘terrorised’ by ministers’ tough coronavirus message and ‘lost sight’ of fact most people only have mild illness, a SAGE adviser warned;
- Polling revealed a fifth of Britons would consider deliberately getting infected with coronavirus if ‘immunity certificates’ are introduced.
The worker was photographed pushing a woman in a wheelchair, who is likely vulnerable to the disease
The concourse at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, London, is empty during the normally busy Easter getaway, as the UK continues in lockdown
Passengers arriving at British airports face zero health checks or screening, markedly out of step with other nations imposing rigorous testing.
Officials believe about 15,000 passengers are arriving unchecked into the UK every day, including 10,000 at Heathrow.
People are even flying in from coronavirus-battered countries such as China, Italy and Iran are not being checked.
Data compiled from Oxford’s Blavatnik’s School of Government laid bare the damning lack of action taking by the UK to insulate the border.
Of the 73 countries with information available, Britain and Jordan are the only states not to mandate any form of health checks.
Experts in the UK have insisted aid 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 unlike other governments can not enforce this.
‘Do not use this seat’ signs are places on seats at Heathrow Airport as the coronavirus lockdown continues
Heathrow insists that is has stepped up social distancing measures and efforts to avoid contamination.
This includes installation of over 600 hand sanitizer dispensers, plastering social distancing markers on floors, one-way systems in terminals and widespread signage via digital screens and monoliths.
It also includes providing surgical facemasks to security staff, although they are not obliged to wear them.
Airlines have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis as sales have nosedived amid worldwide travel restrictions.
A lot of fleets have has been mothballed in hangars and airport tarmac, but a few routes are still running to transport key workers and deliver supplies.
Industry chiefs have been forced to cut staff and are in urgent rescue talks with ministers for a bailout.
Masks have been a point of contention throughout the crisis in the UK, as the government’s advisory group SAGE believes they have little effect in stemming the spread of infection.
But this advice remains alarmingly out of kilter with other countries such as the US and European neighbours who have in some places enforced their wearing.
A BA spokesman said: ‘We follow all the guidance from the UK Government and global health authorities, including Public Health England and the World Health Organisation.
‘We have taken several steps to greatly reduce contact between customers and crew, and personal protective equipment is available to them.’
Heathrow did not provide a comment.