Airport testing ‘step in the right direction’

By Steve Hartridge, published 21/10/20

Rapid Covid-19 tests launched this week on selected routes from Heathrow, along with testing initiatives at other European airports, have been heralded a “step in the right direction” by industry chiefs.

WTTC President and CEO Gloria Guevara said she hopes schemes at Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle, Orly, Fiumicino Airport and Milan Linate will inspire other countries to follow their lead and implement similar initiatives.

“It is very encouraging to see the door beginning to open to allow airport testing on departure,” she said.

“We have been calling for a rapid and cost-effective testing on departure regime at airports around the world for several months now, so this is a step in the right direction.”

The Heathrow initiative, launched on Tuesday, will allow travellers heading to Hong Kong and Italy to take a 'rapid saliva swab', technically known as a Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification test, or Lamp test.

It provides quicker results than the widely-used NHS PCR test because the sample does not need to be sent to a laboratory. Results will be known in around in 20 minutes.

Available at Heathrow Terminals 2 and 5 with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific, the tests must be booked in advance and cost £80.

The scheme is being run by medical and security assistance firm, Collinson, and Swissport, the ground and cargo handling company.

Collinson has also set up a testing centre for Heathrow arrivals but this has yet to get Government approval.

David Evans, Collinson Joint Chief Executive, said: “With countries around the world adding the UK to their list of ‘high risk’ countries, we need to find a way to work with governments, leading travel brands and other commercial entities to safely open up travel out of the UK.”

Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said: “Ultimately, we need a Common International Standard for pre-departure testing, and we welcome the UK government’s recent announcement that it wants to take a global lead in establishing this.”

Clive Wratten, CEO of the BTA, added: “ It is a small step forwards, and it’s imperative that every effort is now made to get a testing scheme in place for departures and arrivals to the UK by no later than the end of November. We need many more destinations to open up for the survival of the business travel industry.”

Meanwhile, there is hope that an air corridor between the UK and the U.S. might be established before the end of the year after trials of a ‘health passport’ on a United Airlines flight between Heathrow and Newark took place on Wednesday.

Known as the CommonPass system, tests from the private testing company Prenetics will be administered by Collinson in Covid-19 testing facilities set by Swissport.

CommonPass, backed by the World Economic Forum (WEF), is designed to create a common international standard for passengers to demonstrate they do not have coronavirus.