A Heathrow Airport hygiene technician at work. Rapid testing is believed to be essential to Britain retaining its competitive advantage in aviation.
According to British media reports, Heathrow airport is trialling 20-second covid tests. The rapid response tests are part of the airport’s plans to replace quarantine with mass-screening of travellers.
According to The Daily Telegraph, Heathrow is working with Oxford and Manchester universities to trial three new types of test.
One is a throat swab, which produces results in 30 minutes, the second is a saliva test which returns results in ten minutes and the third is a self-administered holographic microscope test originally pioneered for ebola which can produce a result in as little as 20 seconds.
“The long-term aim of the trial is to understand whether these tests could be quickly and efficiently conducted on large numbers of people outside of a laboratory setting and to ensure they are accurate enough to be delivered in an airport environment,” said a Heathrow spokesperson.
Around 250 workers at Heathrow airport have taken part in the trial. They took the tests alongside a regular PCR test and the results are currently being evaluated by the two universities. Not only are the tests quicker than the PCR test, they are also significantly cheaper at just GBP30 per test.
“Testing is the lifeline that the UK’s aviation sector needs to get back on its feet,” Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, told The Daily Telegraph. “We’ve put some of the most cutting-edge rapid testing technologies into action at Heathrow to see which offers the best solution.”
Testing centres have recently been completed at Heathrow’s T2 and T5 in a bid to reduce the 14-day quarantine time imposed on travellers coming from ‘red light’ countries. The tests are voluntary, cost GBP150 and results are promised in around five hours. A follow-up, NHS test, would be taken five to eight days later and if both results were negative it was hoped the government would allow travellers to be released early from quarantine.