London Gatwick Airport, the second busiest airport in the British capital, is facing operational restrictions this week due to an acute shortage of air traffic controllers caused by the widespread presence of the coronavirus.
Gatwick Airport in London has had to cancel over 160 flights in the past 48 hours due to an extraordinary lack of air traffic control personnel, as reported by the Associated Press. Le Monde newspaper states that approximately one-third of these controllers are unavailable due to various health reasons, primarily related to COVID-19.
Stewart Wingate, the airport’s director, has announced that Gatwick will limit daily departures and arrivals to 800 until October 1st, in coordination with the UK’s air traffic control service.
Wingate commented, “It was a challenging decision, but the measures taken ensure that passengers won’t experience last-minute cancellations.” He added that the most significant disruptions occurred on Friday, September 29th, when 33 departures had to be canceled.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning stating that last month witnessed a 38 percent surge in COVID-19 infections compared to July. Between July 31st and August 27th, more than 1.4 million new cases and over 1,800 deaths were reported. However, the WHO also emphasized that the actual number of cases is likely much higher due to reduced testing, meaning that reported figures do not reflect the true extent of the outbreak.
Since the official end of the COVID-19 pandemic a few months ago, there have been over 770 million reported cases of COVID-19 and nearly seven million deaths related to the virus worldwide.