The airline industry is pushing for increased COVID-19 testing as a way to restart travel. A coalition of airline execs are asking a UN-led task force to allow a negative test within 48 hours of travel as an alternative to a quarantine.
“A test prior to departure could reduce the risk of importation by up to 90%, enabling air travel to be opened up between a large number of countries without a quarantine requirement,” said the proposal from Airports Council International (ACI) and airline trade group International Air Transport Association (IATA).
This comes as London’s Heathrow Airport has unveiled a new COVID-19 testing facility that can be a game changer. Created by Collinson and Swissport, this dedicated testing facility in Terminal 2 enables arriving passengers to be tested for the virus upon landing and know just hours later if they have tested positive.
At Heathrow, more than 13,000 passenger tests can be conducted 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.
PCR Testing at the border has been tested internationally, in locations with very strong scientific oversight such as Germany, and found to be safe, and now rolled out in France, Iceland and Austria and at more than half the world’s busiest airports including Paris Charles de Gaulle, Tokyo Haneda and Dubai International.
The proposed pilot is set to focus on a two-test model, with the first test taken at the testing facility on arrival and then a second confirmatory test to follow a few days after the first. With government approval, travelers who test negative to both tests would then be released early from quarantine.
“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,” said Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye, in a statement.
“Airport testing is still the most viable solution to increasing travel while keeping virus spread low,” added David Evans, Joint CEO at Collinson. “We’re pleased to announce that our solution is ready to give a massively needed boost to international trade as well as inbound business and leisure travel, crucial to the recovery of so many sectors. This can all be done with the reassurance that this is science led, making it safe to do so.”