The facility in Terminal 2 (T2) enables arriving passengers to be tested for Covid-19 upon landing and determine just hours later if they have tested positive. More than 13,000 passenger tests can be carried out each day using the existing facility, which can be further scaled with demand. It is hoped that with approval from the government, people testing negative during the process will be allowed to exit quarantine early.
The announcement that the testing facility is ready, comes as airport-based Covid-19 testing is embraced by more than 30 countries around the world, helping to get the travel industry back up and running while safeguarding public health.
Jersey has implemented the same approach being proposed for Heathrow. In July, 20,061 tests on inbound travellers were conducted at the border, representing 20 per cent of the resident population size, with 17 cases of Covid-19 being detected and quarantined. Consistent with the findings of all other countries that have trialled and implemented testing on arrival, the testing was found to be highly effective at detecting Covid-19 at the border and preventing onward transmission in the community.
However, British Health Minister Matt Hancock said the government was still working with Heathrow on the plan but there were challenges in ensuring all of those infected by Covid-19 were detected.
“I’m very glad that they’re making progress, but we’ve got to make sure that this is safe and secure because obviously that is absolutely top priority,” Hancock told LBC radio.
Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, commented: “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.”
“We’ve created the new facility in Heathrow T2 as we know from other countries that airport-based testing is the way forward,” added Richard Cawthra, Chief Commercial Officer at 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.”