Collinson and Swissport have today announced they are working with Heathrow Airport to offer a pilot of their COVID-19 testing procedure. The pilot, the first of its kind in the UK, will mean passengers can be checked for COVID-19 upon landing at Heathrow and know just hours later if they have tested positive for the virus. All three organisations are hoping the ‘Test-on-Arrival’ procedure could provide a solution to those travelling from places not included on last week’s list of countries exempt from quarantine, if the Government also adds people testing negative during the process to its list of exemptions.
The announcement comes a couple of weeks after Collinson and Swissport announced ‘Test-on-Arrival’ as a potential alternative to the blanket 14-day quarantine policy.
Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said: “The Government made a significant step forward last week by removing quarantine for visitors from many countries, but we still need a solution that safely allows passengers to travel to and from higher risk countries. This trial with Swissport and Collinson will provide a much-needed alternative to quarantine for those arriving passengers and should add further momentum to the Government’s push for Common International Standards which are needed for the resumption of global travel.”
The pilot of the new testing procedure would be available as a private service to anyone with a flight landing in Heathrow Terminal 2. Passengers will need to set up an account and book their test online, before beginning their journey to the UK. The tests will be carried out by Collinson nurses in a Swissport facility on arrival at the airport. During the appointment, a swab will be taken for testing, which is then sent to a Collinson biotech lab near Heathrow, using the same transportation protocols the NHS uses for home swab tests.
The tests, which use the gold standard of virus detection, RT-PCR testing, are sensitive enough to detect COVID-19 particles, even when a passenger has displayed no symptoms. If travelling from a country where quarantine is still required, passengers will be asked to continue from Heathrow to the address they provided at the time of booking, while they await their test results, which they’ll receive within 24 hours.
If this arrivals testing model is added by the Government as an additional exemption to the quarantine policy, the long term ambition is for passengers to be free to leave quarantine measures when given the all clear (the outcome for around 95% of tests). In the less likely event that the test comes back positive, they’ll be asked to abide by isolation requirements, staying at their given quarantine address for the next 14 days.
“We launched the tests to help get the travel ecosystem moving again, using science to reassure the public it’s safe to do so,” said David Evans, Joint CEO at Collinson. “PCR testing is the gold standard of COVID-19 testing, used by the NHS and Public Health England, as it is able to detect the virus even when someone is asymptomatic.”