Coronavirus: Quarantine 'stake through the heart' of airport

Departures hall at Belfast International AirportImage source, PAcemaker

The boss of Belfast International Airport has said the quarantine measures are "a stake through the heart" of its summer trade.

More passenger flights are returning to Northern Ireland, as the easing of coronavirus restrictions continue.

Easyjet restarted its services to seven UK destinations as well as Portugal.

Graham Keddie, managing director of the airport, told Good Morning Ulster that the airport has yet to return to capacity.

"Today we should have 22,000 plus going through the terminal and we should be lucky to have 700 or 800," he said.

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Graham Keddie, managing director of Belfast International Airport, said quarantine measures are "crazy"

He added that he still has no idea how quarantine measures will be enforced.

Mr Keddie said they were "ill-timed, ill-thought through and illogical".

"It's a crazy, crazy idea," he said.

Since the start of lockdown the airport has only been dealing with cargo flights.

Passengers will have to wear masks onboard planes and in the airport.

Since lockdown began, Northern Ireland has only been serviced by an Aer Lingus flight from Belfast City Airport to London Heathrow, and a Loganair flight between City of Derry Airport and London Stansted.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
The scene at the airport with social distancing guidelines in place

First Minister Arlene Foster told Good Morning Ulster that quarantine regulations were a "reserved issue", but that the UK government would be reviewing the measures every three weeks.

"We will feed in the information from the likes of Graham Keddie to make sure that they are aware of the impact of the coronavirus quarantine regulations," she said.

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"Obviously because we don't have any international flights until today, it's been difficult to assess how the quarantine regulations will have an impact on the business."

Property market reopens

Meanwhile, estate agents can now open and viewings can take place

The property market had been paused for three months during the pandemic, leaving many people in limbo.

Under the lockdown restrictions, house moves were only allowed in very limited circumstances.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said there were "many people living in unsuitable accommodation" and for them, it would be a relief "to be able to move to more suitable housing".

Ms Hargey said there were families who had been living in temporary accommodation who could now be placed in social housing.

However, she said it did not represent a "return to normality".

There is new guidance in place both for estate agents and those seeking to buy or sell a home.

For those looking at property, there will be more virtual viewings and appointment-only systems.

For estate agents, there will be strict infection control procedures before, during and after viewings.

'Look but don't touch'

Neil Templeton, of Templeton Robinson in Belfast, said staff had been busy preparing for reopening.

Image source, Templeton Robinson
Image caption,
Estate agents and their clients will have a range of new rules to follow

“As only one party can view a particular house at one time, it may take a little longer," he said.

"It may be a case of 'look, but don’t touch' when it comes to physical viewings.”

He said the office space had also been adapted for social distancing, with screens and signage.

Samuel Dickey, estate agent and Northern Ireland spokesperson for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said the changes would help release the "pent up demand" in the sector.

Realisations made during lockdown may drive increased activity, he added.

“Your house is your castle and you need to be comfortable in your living environment especially if you are working from home,” he said.

Belfast resident Martin Sheppard put his house on the market back in February.

He had hoped to have wrapped up the sale and moved into a new property in time to enjoy the summer.

“I’m looking forward to Monday, hopefully I’ll get a few viewings soon," he said.

"I wouldn't be comfortable with virtual viewings however, in the same sense I wouldn't be comfortable with someone who was in viewing the house recording it.

"I'd prefer people came to view in person."

Media caption,

What is the R number and what does it mean?

The R-number

The Department of Health has confirmed the R number of the virus in Northern Ireland remains at between 0.5 and 0.9.

R is the number of people each infected person, on average, passes the virus on to and it has been at the heart of Stormont's decision making. The goal is to keep R under one.

On Sunday, the department also released the scientific data behind how they calculate the number and other estimates on how prevalent the infection currently is in Northern Ireland.

It says the number of people who are infected with coronavirus is currently between 300 and 2,000 - the department says it cannot be more specific because of the large numbers of people who are asymptomatic.

Less than 5% of the population have recovered from Covid-19 and have detectable antibodies, the department suggests, meaning the majority of the population remain susceptible to the virus.

That means "any subsequent waves of the epidemic have the potential to be significantly worse" than the current outbreak, according to the department's update.