Bran­son re­bukes Han­cock over virus tests

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Ben Gart­side

SIR Richard Bran­son has lashed out over the Gov­ern­ment’s fail­ings on air­port test­ing in a con­fer­ence call with Matt Han­cock, the Health Sec­re­tary.

The Vir­gin At­lantic founder said the fail­ure to re­store quar­an­tine-free flights be­tween London and New York had left the air­line in­dus­try fac­ing a bleak au­tumn and win­ter, ac­cord­ing to sources on the call be­tween Mr Han­cock and busi­ness lead­ers. Sir Richard is un­der­stood to have launched a blis­ter­ing five-minute cri­tique of min­is­ters’ Covid pol­icy. One lis­tener said the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands-based bil­lion­aire was “forth­right” in his views dur­ing the dis­cus­sion on Wed­nes­day last week.

Vir­gin At­lantic an­nounced 1,000 job losses ear­lier this month and was forced into a £1.2bn res­cue deal af­ter the pan­demic struck.

Sir Richard was par­tic­u­larly un­happy that travel to the US was still heav­ily re­stricted, and called for un­hin­dered travel to New York to be re­stored now the city had low Covid case rates. He also took Mr Han­cock to task over the lack of test­ing at air­ports, which many other coun­tries have achieved.

Vir­gin At­lantic signed a let­ter call­ing for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of air­port test­ing two weeks ago. Other sig­na­to­ries in­cluded lobby groups Air­lines for Amer­ica and Air­lines UK, as well as Heathrow. A re­port com­mis­sioned by Heathrow and IAG said the lack of agree­ment was cost­ing the econ­omy £3.5bn. The Depart­ment for Health and a spokesman for Sir Richard de­clined to com­ment.

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