Heathrow has published its latest traffic figures, showing a slump of nearly 90 per cent in passenger numbers during January.

The airport said that “the national lockdown, travel bans, blanket quarantine and compulsory testing [had] deterred people from travelling”, while “the additional inconvenience and cost of quarantine hotels, day two / day eight testing requirements on top of other measures mean that the UK’s borders are effectively closed”.

The London hub also warned that fewer long-haul passenger flights had led to a fall in cargo volumes of 21 per cent last month – “a key indicator of the damage that travel restrictions are having on the UK’s exports and supply chain”.

Passenger numbers were down to all destinations, with the US particularly badly hit (down just under 94 per cent).

Announcing the figures CEO John Holland-Kaye said that the airport supported the government in measures required to protect public health, but warned that they amounted to “essentially a border closure”.

“That will inevitably delay the country’s recovery and hurt the UK’s supply chains,” said Holland-Kaye. “We need to see the flight plan for the safe restart of international travel as part of the Prime Minister’s roadmap on February 22.

“We also need to preserve our vital aviation infrastructure to support economic recovery when it comes and make Global Britain a reality. That means the Chancellor must use next month’s budget to deliver the minimum help that aviation needs with 100 per cent business rates relief and an extension of the furlough scheme.”

Earlier this month Heathrow announced a rapid Covid-19 testing pilot for staff in partnership with NHS Test and Trace.

The airport said that the initiative “is designed to support measures already in place to keep the airport Covid-secure, help stop the spread of the new more contagious strain of the virus and provide valuable insight into how rapid testing can be more widely deployed across Britain to keep vital services such as critical national infrastructure running”.