Heathrow airport has announced a rapid Covid-19 testing pilot in partnership with NHS Test and Trace.

The initiative will see around 2,000 symptomless staff regularly taking rapid lateral flow tests “to help identify those who may unknowingly be carrying the virus”. It is thought that one in three people with coronavirus do not display symptoms.

The airport said that the pilot, which will initially run for four weeks, “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”.

The pilot programme follows a smaller trial of rapid tests for airport staff back in August 2020, with the data again being shared with the UK government, and Heathrow said that “Understanding how new technologies can be used to regularly screen large numbers of people with quick results is key to the Government’s plans to rollout mass testing across society”.

Heathrow trials rapid Covid-19 tests on colleagues

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

“We’re pleased to be working with the Government on this pilot testing scheme which goes even further to protect our colleagues and the other key workers who are keeping the country moving through this crisis.

“This pilot will support us as we work to keep the UK’s biggest port running smoothly, helping to facilitate essential journeys and the movement of cargo.”

The airport highlighted other measures its has put in place over the last year to keep passengers and colleagues safe, including UV robots, UV handrail technology, anti-viral wraps, Perspex screens, hand sanitiser dispensers, hygiene technicians, Covid marshals to assist with social distancing, and the mandatory use of face coverings.