Collinson and Swissport have built their Covid-19 facility for arrivals at Heathrow Terminal 2 with another for Terminal 5 by the end of August, 2020
The proposed pilot for testing is set to focus on a two-test Covid-19 model.
The first test would be at the testing facility on arrival with the results available within five to eight hours.
Travellers would then be given a kit for a second confirmatory test to follow five to eight days later at home, with the results known within 72 hours.
With Government approval, travellers who test negative to both tests would then be released early from quarantine.
The cost of the Covid-19 tests being offered will be £150, including the second test taken at home and posted to a testing centre.
The two-test model is a result of an initial pilot run in July by Collinson, Swissport and Heathrow and also discussions with various government departments.
The tests proposed for the procedure are what the companies call “the ‘gold-standard’ PCR tests, sensitive enough to detect COVID-19 particles even before a passenger has displayed any symptoms, and before they become infectious”.
Inside the new testing area in Terminal 2, Collinson nurses “will be on hand to assist in taking a swab within the facility, which is then transported by Swissport staff to a specifically dedicated Collinson biotech lab near Heathrow. The tests will be transported using the same protocols as the NHS uses for home swab tests.”
Initially, the hope had been that a single arrivals test would have been considered sufficient by the UK government.
Government sources, however, along with Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, have made it clear that since the virus could develop after ay initial, negative test, that a period of quarantine would be necessary. This has forced the adaptation of the proposal into a two-test model. For Heathrow (and the UK), the question is whether this will be enough to convince travellers to make a journey – when the prospect is that the two tests will only shorten the quarantine time rather than eliminate it altogether.
Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, says: “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. This facility is an oven-ready opportunity to see how Britain can safely reopen for business, as other countries are doing.”
“Airport testing is still the most viable solution to increasing travel while keeping virus spread low,” says David Evans, Joint CEO at Collinson. “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. Meaning we can immediately move ahead with our pilot and give the travel industry the welcome boost it so desperately needs.”
“We’ve created the new facility in Heathrow Terminal 2 as we know from other countries that airport-based testing is the way forward,” said Richard Cawthra, Chief Commercial Officer, Swissport. “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.”