Coronavirus testing will be made available for passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport if the Government amends its quarantine policy.
Travel assistance company Collinson and ground-handling firm Swissport announced they have developed a system for people flying in to the UK’s busiest airport to get tested, find out their results within 24 hours, and avoid self-isolation if they get the all-clear.
Tests would cost around £140 each and would be aimed at people returning to or visiting England from countries not included on the quarantine exemption list published by the Department for Transport on Friday, such as China, Portugal and the US.
But the Test On Arrival trial will only begin if the Government’s quarantine policy is updated to also allow people who test negative at Heathrow to travel freely.
Vienna Airport is already offering coronavirus tests for arriving passengers willing to pay 190 euros (£172).
Austria requires passengers from certain countries, including the UK, to present a medical certificate showing they have been tested within the past four days and found not to have coronavirus.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “The Government made a significant step forward last week by removing quarantine for visitors from many countries, but we still need a solution that safely allows passengers to travel to and from higher risk countries.
“This trial with Swissport and Collinson will provide a much-needed alternative to quarantine for those arriving passengers, and should add further momentum to the Government’s push for common international standards which are needed for the resumption of global travel.”
If the scheme does go ahead, passengers due to land at Heathrow Terminal 2 will be able to visit a Swissport facility for testing.
A swab will be taken to a Collinson laboratory near the airport for analysis.
Passengers will be asked to transfer to their place of accommodation while they wait for their results.
If the test is negative for the virus, they would have no restrictions on their movement.
But if it comes back positive, they would need to self-isolate at the same address for 14 days.
Collinson joint chief executive David Evans said: “We launched the tests to help get the travel ecosystem moving again, using science to reassure the public it’s safe to do so.”
He described the testing system being proposed as “gold standard”.
Swissport chief commercial officer Richard Cawthra said: “Test On Arrival perfectly complements last week’s list of countries exempt from quarantine.
“Should the Government also grant the exemption we are seeking, travellers could go to countries beyond those on the list with confidence, knowing that they would not face a quarantine upon landing in the UK as long as they test negative.”
In May, Heathrow launched a trial of thermal screening technology to identify elevated temperatures of arriving passengers.