Plea for 'fast-track' coronavirus test to be rolled out at Britain's struggling ports and airports

Brittany Ferries has suspected some of its travel amid a drop in demand. Pictured is the company's chief executive Christophe Mathieu, on the Mont St Michel as she departed Portsmouth en route to Caen with the first passengers in June. Picture: Sarah Standing (290620-712)

The plea has come from Mike Sellers, director of Portsmouth's International Port - which is battling 'chronic difficulties' as a result of the pandemic. Since the start of the outbreak, passengers numbers have plummeted, with the city's promising cruise industry now in tatters. Mr Sellers said the government must now focus on 'long-term' measures to encourage travellers back and to support struggling ferry operators who have born 'the brunt of difficult decisions'.

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Portsmouth International Port

His pleas comes just days after Brittany Ferries, one of city's key travel operators, announced it would be axing some of its services to save cash in a move that would hit 50,000 passengers.

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Brittany Ferries to cancel services affecting 50,000 passengers

Mr Sellers insisted the port was desperately trying to return to 'some sort of normality'. 'However, this pandemic is producing chronic, longer term issues and our ferry and cruise customers are bearing the brunt of difficult decisions,' he added. Portsmouth International Port is facing 'chronic difficulties' following the coronavirus crisis Picture : Habibur Rahman

'Cruise has ground to a halt, with crew repatriation the priority. We hope cruise travel can return soon, but it is difficult to say with confidence when that's going be. It's incredibly hard for the industry at the moment to plan, when the situation is changing reactively.

'Our ferry customers are suffering significantly too. Trying to run sailings with reduced capacity, coupled with quarantine restrictions, understandably means having to re evaluate how they operate. If passengers aren't travelling then the options are limited.'

Ferry trips resumed in Portsmouth at the end of June. But passengers numbers are still low. Mr Sellers said fast-track testing at ports and airports could help 'avoid the uncertainty in travel conditions'.

Port Director Mike Sellers is seen at the Portsmouth International Ferry Port on January 08, 2019 in Portsmouth, England. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images He added: 'We're interested in exploring whether fast-track testing would be beneficial and also the outcome of antibody testing, both will hopefully help understand who is infectious, which is the main solution to controlling the spread of the virus.'

As previously reported, Brittany Ferries, which is the primary ferry operator at the port, will lay up two of its ferries, causing changes across its schedule. It follows the government introducing quarantine measures on arrivals from France, which led to 35,000 ferry passengers either cancelling or delaying their travel plans. Demand for bookings across autumn remain 'extremely weak', according to a statement from the company.

Brittany Ferries' ship Bretagne, currently serving the Portsmouth to St Malo route, will be laid up from September 7. The Etretat will not resume crossings as planned. The ferry Connemara will continue to operate the Cherbourg and Le Havre rotations from Portsmouth, but will no longer serve Spain.

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