My Department engages regularly with the Department of Health and Social Care, SAGE and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to ensure we have up-to-date information on the risk of transmission in the aviation sector. We have published safer transport guidance to operators on reducing the risks, and we engage regularly with the sector on the steps they are taking, including the level of absences they are seeing.
This week, we passed the grim milestone of 100,000 people having lost their lives tragically to this terrible disease. Last year I was strongly critical of the Government’s policies on the border, including through our airports. Figures released by Government Ministers showed that more than 2,000 UK Visas and Immigration and Border Force officials were off with symptoms of coronavirus in January to April last year, and that is before we even look at others working in, for example, our airports and on planes. Can the Minister explain what exactly he is doing to keep airport workers safe, particularly those at Heathrow and other major hubs and especially those who will be involved in transporting individuals to quarantine hotels?
The hon. Gentleman is right to pinpoint the critical importance of those who work in the aviation sector for the country, and I join him in mourning the loss of every single life tragically lost during the course of this pandemic. We are working very closely with operators and the Home Office to operationalise the safer transport guidance that I referred to earlier, in addition to the rapid testing pilots, which may also assist.