HEATHROW AIRPORT Launches Pre-Departure Testing Trial.
Heathrow airport is working with four transatlantic carriers on a trial of pre-departure Covid testing which it hopes will pave the way for the method to be accepted worldwide. The industry-funded study is being commissioned in a bid to resume international aviation routes using “real-world data” from American Airlines, British Airways, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
Using the already-installed Collinson and Swissport testing facilities in terminals two and five, the study hopes to demonstrate pre-departure testing is a safe and effective alternative to quarantine and travel restrictions. The final report will be shared with governments on both sides of the Atlantic.
The group study follows the UK government’s ‘Test to release’ scheme, announced last week, which – from December 15 – will give passengers the option to reduce their quarantine period from 14 days to five, providing they test negative for the virus.
Heathrow will have access to anonymised testing data generated by each of the separate pre-departure trials being conducted by the airlines. Each trial is unique to each airline, but Heathrow said the variations will provide “richer and more diverse data” to “strengthen the study’s conclusions”.
It said the number and scale of the carriers involved make this the largest pre-departure study in the UK. Oxera and Edge Health, which have worked on previous Covid testing studies, will author the study.
Tests as part of the trials will be free to passengers and the study is expected to assess the effectiveness of PCR tests, LAMP and Lateral Flow antigen devices. All participants must abide by government guidelines at the time of travel, so must self-isolate for 14 days, or until they have received a negative test taken on day five, from December 15.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “These trials will build on the government’s initial testing strategy, setting a standard for a safer and more comprehensive approach to passenger testing, that we hope will accelerate the return to travel as we once knew it. With Brexit imminent, we need to urgently find the most effective way to restore the UK’s trading network and facilitate safe global travel, keeping Britain competitive as it leaves the EU.”
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