Heathrow set to launch rapid testing pilot

The government-led initiative will help to identify how rapid testing could be used to reopen society

Heathrow is set to implement a government-led COVID-19 rapid testing scheme for staff in partnership with NHS Test and Trace service.  

The new initiative will take place over a four-week period and will involve around 2,000 employees from the airport.

The pilot is being introduced to increase the support that’s already in place, whilst helping to stop the spread of more contagious strains. The study will also provide an indication of how rapid testing could be implemented across the UK to keep vital services running.

Heathrow Airport
Photo London Heathrow Airport 

It is currently known that one in three people with the virus are asymptomatic, meaning they could unknowingly spread it to others.

The hope is that the pilot scheme will be able to identify these symptomless cases within the airport’s workforce. Test results can be obtained in around 20 minutes, highlighting that it would be an effective strategy to isolate positive cases.

We’re pleased to be working with the government on this pilot testing scheme which goes even further to protect our colleagues and the other key workers who are keeping the country moving through this crisis. This pilot will support us as we work to keep the UK’s biggest port running smoothly, helping to facilitate essential journeys and the movement of cargo,” said John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow CEO.

The London hub has introduced new technology to help combat the virus including UV robots, UV handrails and anti-viral wraps that quickly eradicate viruses and bacteria. The airport has also rolled out Perspex screens, hand sanitiser dispensers, hygiene technicians, COVID-19 marshals and mandatory face covering rules.

Gaining an understanding of how technology can be used to screen large numbers of people, regularly and effectively, is crucial to the government’s plan to introduce mass testing across the country.

Dido Harding, interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, said: “This pilot is one of many which will inform our understanding of how rapid asymptomatic testing can be operationalised in the real world; to protect those at high risk, find the virus and help us go back to as normal a way of life as possible.” 

By studying the results from the Heathrow scheme, the government hope they are able to understand where to use the testing technology so that society can slowly return to normality.