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Transatlantic Covid testing to launch this month

Collinson testing facilities are available at London's Heathrow Airport.

Transatlantic Covid testing is set to launch later this month in a study led by British Airways, American Airlines and oneworld.

Eligible passengers will be contacted by the airlines and invited to take part in the optional pilot scheme. It's hoped the results will demonstrate that Covid testing can reopen international travel and remove the need for quarantine on arrival.

The scheme involves three tests, all of which are free-of-charge. Each participant is asked to take a test 72 hours before departure from the US, one at Heathrow airport on arrival and another three days later. The first test will be provided as an at-home PCR test by LetsGetChecked. Passengers take a nasal sample under the supervision of online medical professionals.

On landing at Heathrow, passengers will undergo a LAMP test provided by Collinson, which involves another nasal sample, this time collected by a medical professional.

A kit for a third test will then be given to each traveller. The at-home testing option requires a saliva sample taken three days after arrival in the UK.

It's hoped that the third test will back up the previous two negative tests and demonstrate that just two tests are sufficient to allow travel to restart without the need for self-isolation.

The results will be closely monitored by oneworld member airline representatives and independent medical experts.

Customers flying on AA50 departing Dallas/Fort Worth to Heathrow, BA114 departing New York’s JFK to Heathrow and BA268 from Los Angeles to Heathrow from November 25 will be contacted by either American Airlines or British Airways with instructions on how to volunteer.

Before the pandemic, American Airlines and British Airways flew more than 100 flights a week between London and New York. That figure has now plummeted to just 14. Based on current UK government policy, travellers arriving into the UK from the US are required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.

“American has already successfully introduced a pre-flight Covid-19 testing programme for customers travelling from the US to international destinations across the Caribbean and Latin America,” said American Airlines boss Doug Parker. “The UK is a critically important business and leisure destination… We believe the results provided by this trial will be vital for reopening transatlantic travel safely.”

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said he was “confident” this approach would “open routes, stimulate economies and get people travelling with confidence. The UK’s economic recovery depends on the swift reopening of its skies,” he said.

A study by Harvard University published earlier this autumn found that the universal use of face coverings is the most essential part of a comprehensive set of measures to reduce Covid transmission while travelling by air.


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