Following a number of cases of COVID-19 being detected at Cardiff airport, Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said mass testing at flight hubs was something he was considering. The statement comes after an outbreak of the virus was detected amongst holidaymakers returning from the Greek island of Zante into the airport.
Speaking to BBC Radio Wales, Mr Gething said: “Testing at an airport is not something I have ruled out.
“I want to have another look at whether that would be possible with more time to plan for that.
“It would add to the time it takes people to get through the airport but it could protect passengers, their families and communities in the best way.”
It is a concept that is being called for by a number of industry bodies, with some suggesting it could eliminate the need for the current 14-day quarantine period altogether.
Jason Holt, chief executive officer for Swissport previously spoke out about a push towards airport testing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
He unveiled suggestions for a trial which would see passengers voluntarily take a coronavirus test, and if the results came back as negative, they would be free to avoid the self-isolation period.
If a passenger tested positive for the virus, they would then need to quarantine and their results would be shared with the NHS test and trace scheme.
Speaking on the radio programme, Mr Holt explained: “What we have is a compliment to the quarantine regulations, so we have a system where passengers who arrive into the United Kingdom currently under the situation voluntarily take a test, it is called a PCR test, to see if they have got any genetic items of the COVID virus.
“They would then leave and adopt the quarantine regulations to travel home or travel to the hotel or wherever their destination is, and would then lock themselves down.
“In this case, you would be able to get the result within 24 hours, often no later than 10, and once they had that result, if they were COVID negative then we would ask the government to consider them to be free from the quarantine and they would have 13 days plus avoiding the quarantine.
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“If they were positive then obviously they sit into the track and test system of the NHS, adopt the quarantine and are treated accordingly.”
Similarly, Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kaye suggested that introducing airport testing would reduce the length of time holidaymakers were forced into isolation.
“It would allow us to reduce the time of quarantine because you can be tested for the virus but be at a very early stage of infection and not be showing any symptoms, so based on the medical advice I’ve been given there needs to be two tests,” Mr Holland-Kaye told the BBC.
Travel industry experts also believe that by introducing testing, the inconsistent demand for flights and holidays may once again rise.
“Skyscanner welcomes suggestions of a proposal to introduce airport testing measures, which would be a great step towards restoring confidence for UK travellers considering booking a trip abroad,” said Jon Thorne, Consumer Traveller Expert at Skyscanner.
“Our data shows changing rules around travel have made travellers more reluctant to plan a holiday abroad to destinations which might have quarantine restrictions imposed on them.
“Traveller health and safety is, of course, paramount, and we hope to see more initiatives like this to reassure travellers and restore some much-needed stability to the travel industry.”
Though Cardiff airport has not yet implemented mass testing, passengers who arrived on certain TUI flights from impacted areas in Greece were asked to take two coronavirus tests, as well as isolate at home.
A TUI spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We can confirm that customers returning from Zante to Cardiff on TOM6215 will be advised that they will be tested for COVID-19 48 hours after they return and will have a repeat test in eight days’ time. They will also be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.”
Minister Gething said the decision was made following the detection of six clusters of cases, amounting to 30 infections, linked to flights from the Greek island.
Since then, both Scotland and Wales have axed Greece from their travel corridor lists.
Passengers arriving back into both countries must now self-isolate for 14 days.
Despite this, the nation remains on England’s travel corridor list.
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