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‘Test before travel’ scheme must end in February says Ryanair boss

Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, has demanded that the UK’s new ‘test before travel’ scheme – of which details have yet to be released – end in February, coinciding with the date the most vulnerable in the nation will have been vaccinated.

Expected to take effect next Monday, January 18, the scheme will ask that all travellers to the UK produce evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of departure or face a £500 fine. Transport secretary, Grant Shapps is expected to announce more details this week.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, O’Leary criticised ‘government mismanagement’ of the Covid pandemic and said Ryanair plans to run ‘about 10 or 20 flights’ per day compared with a normal daily schedule of 2,000 while the current restrictions apply. He also called for the scheme to last only four weeks, ending in mid-February – the same date as the Government’s target to vaccinate the most vulnerable 14 million in the UK.

‘On the one hand Boris Johnson is telling us that all the high-risk groups will be vaccinated by the middle of February, yet at the same time they’re introducing travel restrictions.” said O’Leary. ‘Why isn’t it ending in the middle of February, co-terminus with the vaccine roll-out? Why are you restricting people from moving thereafter?’

‘Nobody can make a booking for two weeks out in February or March. Bookings have collapsed, and air travel will collapse to and from the UK,’ warned O’Leary, going on to stay that the company was, ‘calling today on Grant Shapps to tell us when this restriction is going to be lifted.’ The Ryanair CEO also said that he expected ‘very few travel restrictions across Europe’ by summer.