Pre-departure COVID-19 rapid testing rolled out at Heathrow

(Photo: Heathrow Airport)

Collinson and Swissport has launched a pre-departure COVID-19 testing facility at the London hub

Collinson and Swissport have revealed that private testing is now available – at the expense of the passenger – at Heathrow Airport.

The facility will give travellers the option to take a test for those travelling to Hong Kong and Italy via Terminals 2 and 5 – as these countries require passengers to provide a negative test prior to their flight, therefore the introduction of rapid testing would ensure this could be done on-site.

The two companies believe the new facilities are a critical step towards the sector’s recovery.

However, tensions are rising as the 14-day quarantine system is still in place which many believe is hindering the restoration of air travel. It has been argued that an international agreement must be made in order to ensure a full recovery.

Sean Doyle, chief executive of British Airways, said: “The UK’s economic recovery depends on the swift reopening of the UK’s skies and we need a worldwide agreement that fast, reliable pre-departure testing is the safest and quickest way to get people flying again.”

Initially, LAMP testing will be used to detect COVID-19. It’s currently not known as to whether this particular method can identify the virus before someone contracts symptoms. Antigen testing will be introduced in the coming weeks, but it is unclear as to when exactly this will be.

Brian Sutton, general secretary for BALPA, believes initial steps have not been put in place fast enough: “It’s a step forward, but we still have miles to go. The travelling public need a comprehensive, easy to understand system to replace the chaotic, everchanging, confusing travel corridors and quarantine systems.”

He added: “The tests also need to be cheaper if we want to see a widespread uptake amongst business and leisure passengers.”

The price of a private test is £80 and provides a result in around an hour.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the implementation of global testing will allow for millions of jobs to be protected.

Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of WTTC, feels the new initiative is hopeful: “It is very encouraging to see the door beginning to open to allow airport testing on departure. 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.”

Despite this, Guevara also shares the view that more action needs to be taken to re-open the field entirely: “[We] need a standardised international testing protocol. Full cooperation and coordination are crucial to restore seamless travel and remove ineffective and costly quarantines.”

The government’s Global Travel Taskforce  – which was set up earlier this month – is being urged to provide a testing regime that can be used as a safe alternative to the 14-day quarantine system.