Heathrow’s new coronavirus testing facility ‘ready to go’
By Luke Powell, PA
A new coronavirus testing programme at Heathrow Airport could enable passengers arriving from certain countries to exit the mandatory 14-day quarantine period early.
Aviation services company Collinson and logistics firm Swissport said more than 13,000 Covid-19 tests will be available to passengers each day, with results “within hours”.
It is proposed that arrivals will then take a second test at home and will be able to leave quarantine early if they pass both.
The new facility has been set up by Collinson and Swissport in Terminal 2 at the west London airport.
The proposed system still needs UK Government approval to go ahead.
Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Testing will not only avoid the ‘quarantine roulette’ that so many passengers faced in Spain and France, it will also open up flights to key trading partners such as the US, Canada and Singapore.
“The Government’s own research shows that a double test has a high level of accuracy in screening for Covid-19.
“This facility is an oven-ready opportunity to see how Britain can safely reopen for business, as other countries are doing.”
Nurses will oversee tests at the new facility, with swabs transported by Swissport staff to a Collinson lab near Heathrow.
The tests will be transported using the same protocols as the NHS uses for home swab testing, the companies said.
Should the UK Government support the pilot scheme, testing could be available as a private service to those landing at Terminal 2.
It is proposed that the same offer will be made available at Terminal 5 by the end of August.
David Evans, joint chief executive officer at Collinson, said airport testing is the “most viable solution” to increasing travel while keeping the spread of the virus low.
He said: “We’re pleased to announce that our solution is ready to give a massively needed boost to international trade as well as inbound business and leisure travel, crucial to the recovery of so many sectors.
“This can all be done with the reassurance that this is science-led, making it safe to do so.
“Our priority is to work with Government to ensure travellers who have tested negative can be released early from quarantine via an addition to the current list of 42 exemptions from quarantine.”
Richard Cawthra, chief commercial officer at Swissport, said: “This T2 facility can process a volume of 13,000 tests a day, which can scale further with demand.
“We know the logistics work needed and are ready to go with the tests. All we need now is Government buy-in that those with negative tests will be released early from quarantine.”