Heathrow trials rapid Covid-19 tests on colleagues

31 Aug 2020 by Mark Caswell
Heathrow rapid Covid-19 test trials

Heathrow has conducted a series of internal trials of rapid Covid-19 tests, as it continues to push for testing as an alternative to blanket quarantines.

The airport worked with three companies to trial the point of care tests on colleagues, and monitored sample collection methods and result times “to determine the most efficient and user-friendly rapid testing method”, with the findings being shared with government.

Heathrow said that “The long-term aim of the trial is to understand whether these tests could be quickly and efficiently conducted on large numbers of people outside of a laboratory setting and to ensure they are accurate enough to be delivered in an airport environment”.

Heathrow rapid Covid-19 test trials

The airport evaluated the three tests for “accuracy, user experience and practicality outside of a lab environment”.

Colleagues were given the choice of which test they trialled, and were also given a government approved, privately provided PCR test administered by Collinson Assistance Services Ltd, as “the results of these initial trials are only advisory until the methodologies are proven to work in a non-clinical setting”.

Heathrow has been working with Collinson and Swissport to build Covid-19 testing facilities at Terminals 2 and 5, in the hope of persuading government to allow an arrivals testing model to replace blanket quarantines.

Collinson and Swissport Covid-19 facility ready for arrivals at Heathrow

The airport worked with the following three companies on the rapid testing trials:

  • Geneme, which proposes a rapid RT-LAMP test which uses a sample collected from a nasal or throat swab to provide results within 30 minutes. It uses a secure application from Yoti that simplifies the capture, processing and result sharing of Covid-19 tests, without needing paperwork. Secure spoof-proof results can be sent to an individual’s phone using the free Yoti app or to a specified email.
  • Mologic, which has put forward a lateral flow solution which uses a saliva sample on a test device, which provides a visually read result in 10 minutes.
  • I-Abra, which is working with the airport to trial their Virolens testing device to see whether its machine learning holographic microscope, backed by Dell/Intel and partnered with TT Electronics plc for design and manufacturing, can quickly (in under 30 seconds) and accurately identify whether a person is carrying the disease through a self-administered test.
Heathrow rapid Covid-19 test trials

Commenting on the news Heathrow’s CEO John Holland-Kaye said:

“Testing is the lifeline that the UK’s aviation sector needs to get back on its feet. We’ve put some of the most cutting-edge rapid testing technologies into action at Heathrow to see which offers the best solution. If we can find a test that is accurate, gets a result within a matter of minutes, is cost-effective and gets the Government green light, we could have the potential to introduce wide-scale testing at the airport.

“Every passenger travelling through Heathrow would have the confidence to know the airport is Covid-free, boosting demand and getting Global Britain back to safely trading and travelling with the world again. Without this, our first class aviation sector risks becoming second class, giving Britain’s competitive advantage to others.”

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