London’s Heathrow airport, U.K.’s busiest and Europe’s largest, is readying to pilot COVID-19 tests for arriving passengers, if approved by the government. Vienna International airport in Austria offers a similar test.
As per the announcement on July 6, Collinson and Swissport—experts in global medical and travel experience services and the airport ground and cargo handling service, respectively—have joined forces with Heathrow Airport in a bid to offer a plausible alternative to a blanket 14-day quarantine rule enforced by the U.K government. All passengers currently arriving in the U.K. will be required to complete a mandatory 14-day period of self-isolation. The government has announced that from July 10, the restrictions will no longer apply to circa 60 countries. India does not feature on the list.
Those passengers arriving from nations not exempted from quarantine policy will need to book their test online prior to commencing their journey. The tests, to be carried out by Collinson nurses in a Swissport facility on arrival at the airport, will involve Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing trial, using the same type of saliva swab test as the NHS. The results are expected to be out within 24 hours of testing while the passengers will be asked to continue their journey to the address provided at the time of booking. In the event that the result comes back positive, the individual will be asked to isolate at their given quarantine address for a fortnight. Alternatively, if the test is negative, the testing model, if implemented, will hope to allow passengers to be free to leave quarantine measures.
All flights at Heathrow are now operating from Terminals 2 and 5 following the temporary relocation of airlines from Terminals 3 and 4 and the procedure would be available as a private service to anyone with a flight landing in Heathrow Terminal 2.
Collinson and Swissport are also exploring options to work with other airports and governments worldwide in order to offer the tests to outbound passengers. This move aims at reducing the need for people leaving the U.K. to quarantine in other countries. Travel and hospitality sectors continue to navigate uncharted waters and reshape policies to adapt to the changing environment. Safety remains at the forefront of it all.
Pooja Naik is Senior Sub-Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She likes to take long leisurely walks with both hands in her pocket; channeling her inner Gil Pender at Marine Drive since Paris is a continent away.