On Monday 23rd March, the government accelerated its response to the coronavirus by placing the country on lockdown. This meant that all non-essential businesses and services were to stop for an initial period of three weeks.
While airlines were once of the first to be hit by the toughened restrictions, air freight services are continuing throughout the globe. Here, we’ll look at what the government have said in regard to air freight services and how the sector has been impacted by Covid-19.
UK Government advice about freight transport
The government has classified both domestic and international freight services as an essential activity. This means, they aren’t imposed to the same lockdown measures as non-essential businesses. However, this advice is constantly being monitored and is subject to change if the pandemic worsens.
In order to keep freight workers safe, guidelines have been issued. For cargo ships, workers are advised to follow the social distancing measures, particularly in relation to sleeping quarters.
Why are air freights still going?
So, when the rest of the country is on lockdown, why are freight services still going? Well, they are responsible to transporting essential goods. In terms of the coronavirus, they can help bring in crucial supplies such as food, toiletries and medical equipment.
While the country is on lockdown, it is more important than ever before that people have access to the things they need. Without freight services, there would be a shortage of supplies. Passenger flights can carry a lot of air cargo to ensure trade isn’t interrupted.
Has the sector been impacted by Covid-19?
Although the air freight sector is continuing as normal, it has been impacted by the virus crisis.
It is estimated that the air freight industry accounts for 40% of exports and imports in the UK. However, since airlines such as British Airways cancelled their flights to and from China’s mainland, it has drastically disrupted the sector. This is because even passenger flights are used to hold cargo in the belly hold.
The cost of air freight has also increased, in some cases up to 10 times more expensive than usual. It is thought the travel restrictions combined with the increased costs, could see shortages hitting the country in the coming weeks.
While the halt of passenger flights is impacting the sector, air freight is still classed as an essential service. Therefore, throughout the coronavirus crisis, air cargo companies will be operating to the best of their ability, while following social distancing guidelines set out by the government. As the pandemic continues, it may cause further disruption which could see supply shortages. However, for the time being, the service is crucial in ensuring the UK receives crucial supplies.