EasyJet's (EZJ.L) CEO urged the UK to put most of Europe on its 'green list' when international travel opens up next month, and called on the government to drive down the price of COVID testing.
Johan Lundgren, speaking at a webinar arranged by Aviation Club, said the company asked two epidemiologists from Yale to develop scientifically robust analysis of quarantine and testing regimes, after finding that there was very little work done in this space.
The study, which Lundgren believes is the first of its kind, found that travel to and from popular European destinations including Spain, Portugal and Greece would increase COVID hospitalisations in the UK by less than 4% and would not affect the UK's case rate.
"Based on the results of this ground breaking research and applying principles set out in [prime minister] Boris Johnson's roadmap, we believe it is safe to put much of Europe on the green list," he said.
Although there is not much clarity on how the government will open up international travel on 17 May, there is a chance there will be a traffic light system.
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Destinations could be divided into green, amber and red. Green countries would mean people could return to the UK with no restrictions. Amber ones would likely mean people having to quarantine at home, and red ones would require a 10-day quarantine in a hotel. A red list already exists, and there are some 40 countries on it.
“I call on the government to urgently publish the parameters for each tier to provide transparency around the process and urgently tell us which countries are on the green list so consumers and airlines get much-needed clarity," said the budget airline's chief.
"Act on the evidence that makes it clear that much of Europe should be green, or set out evidence that justifies not doing this," he added. He also said that travel to and from Europe will not add more burden on the NHS.
The game changer in all this is the successful rollout of the vaccination programme in the UK, which he said is also picking up in Europe.
“I want to reiterate that we are not looking to reopen travel at any cost. We need to protect the NHS and the vaccination programme," he said.
Lundgren also said the government needs to "do everything possible to drive down the cost of testing."
PCR tests at the moment cost roughly £100, but can go up to £200 in some London clinics. EasyJet has been working to provide this at a cheaper cost, with Lundgren stating that if this is not done, only the privileged will be able to afford travel.
Meanwhile, Lundgren commented on EasyJet's commitment to come out of the pandemic "stronger than other airlines on a competitive basis".
To this end, it raised £5.5bn of liquidity and worked hard to reduce its cash burn.
It also amended delivery of aircrafts to make sure it "can continue with the flexibility that the contract with Airbus allowed us to do."
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