Collinson’s managing director, medical and security assistance, Scott Sunderman explains his company’s plans for a two-test process for UK arrivals
When the Government announced its traffic light destination system a couple of weeks ago, it provided a glimmer of hope to travel companies that the industry would start to move into recovery, after all.
But that was until last week’s announcement that people returning from Spain would have to quarantine for two weeks upon returning to the UK. Brits are now worried about booking trips, should their destination suffer the same fate as Spain. And our research has shown that more than half have said they’re now less likely to travel by air due to general uncertainty. It means travel recovery is stalling, and economic recovery with it.
Yet workplaces, schools, bars and pubs have reopened, showing the government is working towards an ‘acceptable level of transmission’, rather than ‘zero transmission’. If we were aiming for zero transmission, entry even from green light countries would not be permitted – and schools and pubs would still be closed. It seems that the solution is to mitigate transmission of the virus by the maximum amount – and airport-based testing does exactly that.
That’s why we have been lobbying the government to introduce testing at airports since before the traffic light system was announced. As a solution, it can safely get the world moving again, doesn’t require too much effort from the passenger, and will keep virus spread as low as possible. It’s certainly seen as the better alternative by the general public than needing to quarantine: surveys have shown as many as three in five Britons have said they’d be willing to pay for a Covid-19 test at the airport if it meant easing current travel restrictions.
Our solution is relatively straightforward. We’re proposing passengers are tested at the airport upon arrival to the UK, in a dedicated Swissport facility. The tests are PCR tests – the most sensitive tests available – and can detect the virus very early on, before any symptoms show, and before the individual is infectious. The test procedure would also be overseen by Collinson nurses to ensure they’re carried out accurately.
Once a swab has been taken, the traveller would be asked to proceed to their destination. Around seven hours later, they’ll receive a notification their test result is ready for them in the online account they created at the time of booking. A positive result would require abiding by the 14 days quarantine rule. A negative result would mean they could continue with their lives as normal.
We believe this model is more than enough to meet the government’s low transmission standard but do understand they’ll be looking for ways to reduce the risk even further. That’s why we’re working with Public Health England (PHE) on a model that adds a second test to the process. Under a two-test model, travellers are given a take-home test to be carried out five days after taking part in airport-based testing, which should confirm the first test. Many countries now rely on one PCR test on arrival to reduce the chances of transmission from abroad, the proposed two-test solution would give the UK the most comprehensive arrivals testing process worldwide.
We’re all keen to prevent the spread of this virus as much as possible, whilst safely getting people travelling again. Testing is the most effective way to do that. Our two-test solution, worked out with PHE, lowers risk to such a standard that it will keep transmission extremely low. This is what we need to aim for to get the travel industry moving again – and, let’s face it, travel recovery during the summer holidays and beyond is essential if we want to rebuild the wider economy.
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