Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said Covid testing for passengers arriving in the UK could start within a few weeks. Boris Johnson told the airport that the government intends to begin trials by mid-October with the possibility of opening the New York-London route by the end of November.
The model is expected to use the two-test approach for those traveling from high risk countries. In a system that would cut the current 14-day quarantine at least in half, passengers will take a test before departure and another five or seven days after arrival.
During a webcast on Travel Weekly, Holland-Kaye said that after successful attempts, resuming flights between New York and London, one of the busiest routes in the world, by Thanksgiving (November 26th) was “perfectly feasible”. This would depend on the UK and US governments agreeing to a pilot project which could then be expanded to other countries to create an “international standard”.
“We heard from the prime minister that he hopes to go to court in the second half of October,” said Holland-Kaye. “It would take a few weeks to complete, but if we get good results there is no reason why we shouldn’t extend it. It is possible that the rapid tests at the treatment site will normalize in the first or second quarter of the next year. “
Rapid tests could result in regular flights from London to New York resuming at the end of next month. Photo: Getty Images
The tests would be done privately and cost passengers about £ 150. The test facility, managed by the aviation company Swissport and the Collinson Group, which operates airport lounges, is expected to be integrated with the government’s test-and-trace system.
The facilities at Heathrow Terminals 2 and 5 and the temperature sensing devices have been operational for some time. The airport is now waiting for the green light to come for the pilot. A decision can be made within a few days, said Holland-Kaye.
Unlike PCR testing – the ‘gold standard’ test used by the UK government that requires samples to be sent to a laboratory – rapid test technology can provide results in as little as 20 seconds and an hour at most.
“The current bottleneck is the availability of the government’s preferred PCR testing labs. Fast point-of-care testing solves this problem, ”said Holland-Kaye. “I found out [tech company] The iAbra rapid test itself is faster, cheaper and possibly more accurate than the PCR test. “
iAbra is about to start clinical studies to make its test model certifiable for medical purposes. The UK tech startup said the process “does not need to be administered by healthcare professionals and is repeatable”. Any screening device can run hundreds of tests per day for a price per test equivalent to that of a paperback book.
Although the government has not yet made any official announcements about airport testing, Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps has signaled several times that he is in favor of a double testing approach.
Paul Charles from PC Agency’s travel consultancy is one of the many travel industry leaders who have been calling for airport tests since early May. “Testing travelers, whether they are leaving or arriving, is one of the most important steps the government could take,” he said. “Knowing that the people around you at the airport or on the plane would be Covid-free would build confidence in travel and provide significant security.”
Recent research from Skyscanner found that 84% of travelers would be more likely to travel if tests were conducted.