Update: UK Government say coronavirus testing on arrival won’t eliminate quarantine requirements

Aug 24, 2020

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.

U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed that any coronavirus testing introduced on arrival at U.K. airports will not eliminate quarantine requirements. London Heathrow Airport had been pushing the government to allow a coronavirus test on arrival for passengers in lieu of a 14-day quarantine. Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye urged the government to change its policy, in order to avoid losing the game of global “quarantine roulette”.

Last month, Travel firms Collinson and Swissport said they were poised to begin offering coronavirus testing for some arriving passengers. A negative test would, in theory, allow a passenger to bypass the U.K.’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for those who wouldn’t otherwise be exempt. However, the move was subject to government approval that now seems highly unlikely. Transport Secretary Schapps explained to BBC Radio 4 that the proposal involves two tests – one on arrival, and second test seven or eight days later, and the need to quarantine between the two tests would not change.

Even the idea the quarantine requirement could reduce from 14 days down to seven or eight, following the second test is problematic as the U.K. Government would need certainty the second test was carried out on the right person, at the right time.

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Heathrow Airport in July released its results, showing that travel fell by 96% compared to a year ago. Heathrow’s results showed revenue of £119 million, down 85% compared to last year.

“The U.K. needs a passenger testing regime and fast”, Holland-Kaye said, according to BBC. He said that if approved, the airport would be ready to implement the testing process “within weeks”.

Under the original plans, the tests were set to be available in Heathrow’s Terminal 2 for arriving passengers. Upon arrival, travellers who opt-in would get a swab test, which will be sent to a Collinson laboratory. The traveller would then be allowed to travel to their self-quarantine location in England and be informed of the result of their test within 24 hours.

Passengers looking to take a test in order to avoid 14-day quarantine would have to pay for it themselves. While the cost hasn’t yet been released, Holland-Kaye said it would be around £150 per passenger.

Related: London Heathrow begins passenger temperature checks

There is no launch date for the trial, as well as no information as to when it may extend to other airports in the U.K. or other terminals within Heathrow.

Additional reporting by Ben Smithson. Featured photo by Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images.

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