By Bev Fearis, published 2/12/20
Results from three different testing trials at Heathrow will be shared with governments on both sides of the Atlantic in a bid to show the effectiveness of pre-departure testing.
Heathrow has commissioned the study to help find a testing solution that’s practical and safe enough to replace quarantine and other travel restrictions.
Specialist oversight will be provided by consultancy firms Oxera and Edge Health, which have previously identified a lack of real-world pre-departures data on which to base analysis of the effectiveness of this type of testing model.
A trial, which was started in November by British Airways, American Airlines and the oneworld alliance, gives passengers on selected routes the option to take a first RT-PCR test 72 hours before their flight, a LAMP test on arrival at Heathrow followed by a further RT-PCR test 72 hours after arriving back in the UK.
Under a United Airlines’ trial, running from mid-November until December 11, passengers and crew on certain flights from Newark to Heathrow are taking a rapid Abbott ID NOW test (a molecular rapid test) on departure.
In the third trial, starting on December 9, Virgin Atlantic passengers on selected flights from Heathrow to Barbados, and onwards to Antigua and Grenada, will take a free ‘lateral flow’ antigen test at the airport before they fly, in addition to existing entry requirements for the islands.
Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said the trials will build on the Government’s initial ‘Test to Release’ strategy, which comes into force on December 15 and allows travellers arriving into the UK from high risk countries to take a test after five days and, if negative, to cut short the 14-day quarantine.
“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,” he said.
Shai Weiss, CEO Virgin Atlantic, added: “Through close collaboration, trial results will add to the body of real-world evidence being aggregated by Heathrow in this landmark study.
“We call on the UK Government to move swiftly towards this model, in order to open up the skies, replace quarantine and boost consumer confidence.”