Published on Wednesday, August 19, 2020
A Covid-19 testing facility has been installed at Heathrow Airport for passengers arriving from countries not on the government's safe travel list, but those who test negative will still need to quarantine for 14 days. The government has yet to approve testing as an alternative to the two-week quarantine, claiming that someone with coronavirus could test negative if the test is carried out before the onset of symptoms. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed ministers are working with Heathrow to find a way for coronavirus testing to reduce the quarantine period, but proposals on the table would still require arrivals to quarantine for five to eight days. Collinson and Swissport, which have installed the Covid-19 testing facility in Terminal 2, say the test results could be available within hours. They say they have the capacity to test more than 13,000 passengers a day, which can be scaled up on demand. "It is hoped that with approval from the government, people testing negative during the process will be allowed to exit quarantine early," they said, adding that they were 'committed to working with Government to find the optimum testing proposition that balances public health and economic recovery'. They claimed 30 other countries already use airport-based testing, including Germany, France, Iceland and Austria. Heathrow's proposal is for 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, travellers who test negative to both tests would then be released early from quarantine. Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye 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 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."
The on-arrival tests would be available as a private service to passengers at T2, and within a few weeks to those arriving in T5, he said.