The GMB union has called on the government and public health bodies to provide detailed guidance on the safe operation of airports as part of the strategy for emerging from lockdown.

The union’s call came after Heathrow airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye said it would be impossible to operate effective social distancing in an airport environment.

GMB London said correct arrangements were imperative to guarantee the safety of workers and passengers, and accused Heathrow of playing “Russian roulette” by not fully enforcing social distancing rules before now.

Trevlyn McLeod, GMB London Region organiser, said: “Questions will be asked about why Mr Holland-Kaye didn’t make this statement six weeks ago, he has knowingly flaunted the government’s advice. In the past two weeks three GMB London Region members working at Heathrow have lost their lives to the coronavirus.”

He added: “It is now imperative that the government and the bodies responsible for public health and health and safety at work spell out without delay the alternative arrangements to operate airports safely. These are needed for both the traveling public and for the workers who run airports as the Covid-19 health emergency continues into a new phase.”