London Heathrow Airport has installed a Covid-19 testing facility ahead of a potential change in British government policy on quarantine. Airport-based Covid-19 testing is being used by more than 30 countries around the world, but people in Ireland wonder why similar facilities have not been introduced months ago at Irish airports and sea ports.
Developed by Collinson and Swissport, the service enables arriving passengers to be tested for Covid-19 on landing and know the result hours later. More than 13,000 passenger tests can be carried out each day using the existing facility, which can be further scaled up with demand. It is hoped that, with approval from the government, people testing negative during the process will be allowed to exit quarantine early.
PCR testing at the border has been extensively trialled internationally, in locations with strong scientific oversight such as Germany, and found to be safe, and now rolled out in France, Iceland and Austria.
Inside the new testing area in Heathrow’s 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 the airport. The tests will be transported using the same protocols as the NHS uses for home swab tests.
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s Chief Executive, 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 USA, 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.”
With government support, the pilot of the new testing procedure could be available as a private service to anyone with a flight landing in Heathrow Terminal 2 and, within a few weeks, for those arriving in Terminal 5.