OWNERS of Southampton Airport have urged the government to provide more support for the airline industry as it struggles to survive the Covid crisis.

It follows the announcement that everyone returning to England from international destinations will have to test negative for coronavirus before they can enter the country.

From next week passengers arriving by boat, train or plane – including UK nationals – will have to take a test up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure.

AGS Airports owns Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports.

Chief executive Derek Provan said: "We have been calling for the introduction of an effective testing regime for months as it is the only way to safely re-establish connectivity whilst protecting the public from high risk arrivals.

"Whilst it is encouraging government has now decided to put such a scheme in place, it has taken much longer than expected.

"Our industry has been devastated by this pandemic and has effectively been shut down for close to one year. If we are to be in any position to support our country’s and the economy’s recovery from the crisis, it’s vital government provides much needed sector specific support.”

The new Covid testing system aims to curb the spread of new variants that have emerged in countries such as South Africa and Denmark.

Failure to comply will lead to an immediate £500 fine.

A limited number of exemptions will include hauliers, children under 11, crews, arrivals from the Common Travel Area with Ireland and for those travelling from countries without the infrastructure available to deliver tests.

The move follows the decision to suspend all direct travel from South Africa.

The country has seen the emergence of a new coronavirus strain thought to be even more virulent than the mutant variant which has led cases to surge in the UK.

The airline industry, which has been devastated by the pandemic, acknowledged the need for the restrictions but urged ministers to lift them as quickly as possible.

Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “This should be a short-term, emergency measure only.

"Once the rollout of the vaccine accelerates, the focus must be on returning travel to normal as quickly as possible in order to support the UK’s economic recovery.”