If they can do it, why can’t we? How THIRTY other countries offer airport testing for coronavirus so travellers can cut their length of quarantine
- Some carry out testing at the airport, while other accept recent test results
- They include Iceland, Germany, France, Estonia, Italy, Croatia, Japan and more
- Negative test results can reduce the time people are required to quarantine for
- Business leaders in the UK are calling for a similar system to be implemented
There are at least 30 countries which offer or accept coronavirus tests at airports.
Many have introduced systems where a negative test will either end the need to quarantine or reduce its length.
Some carry out testing on arrivals at the airport. Others also accept recent tests carried out before departure.
In ICELAND, for example, arrivals are swabbed at the airport and then told to go by car or taxi – not public transport – to their homes or accommodation.
If they test positive they must self-isolate for 14 days. With a negative result they get a text message on their fourth day of quarantine telling them how to get a second test. If that is negative, they can leave quarantine.
Other countries where testing before flying or on arrival can reduce quarantine times include Germany, France and Austria.
In GERMANY, tests are free for EU residents arriving from high-risk countries.
Testing centres are located in arrivals near the baggage belts. Some travellers can avoid quarantine if they tested negative in the country they flew from 48 hours before landing.
But testing on arrival is also offered at most airports. A second negative test is usually required within a week in order for the 14-day quarantine requirements to cease.
At international airports in FRANCE, compulsory testing for those arriving from high-risk countries has been in operation since August 1, although those with proof of a recent negative test can avoid it. The list of countries linked to the tests includes the US, Israel and Serbia, but not the UK.
A controversial aspect of the system is that passengers do not face compulsory quarantine while waiting for the results of their tests, which can take between 24 and 48 hours.
If people test positive, they are supposed to quarantine for 14 days. ‘If tests come back positive, we ask for infected people to isolate immediately, and to trace anybody else they may have been in contact with,’ said a spokesman for France’s public health agency.
In ESTONIA, travellers arriving from high-risk countries who test negative for the virus at an airport are allowed to break quarantine for essential purposes such as work or food shopping. A second negative test within a week allows them to be fully exempt.
In the FAROE ISLANDS, all arrivals are required to take a test apart from children under 12. They have to quarantine at their home or hotel while waiting for results, which usually arrive the same day or before midday the day after.
Arrivals are encouraged to get another test six days after landing to make sure the one at the airport was accurate before moving around freely, meaning the 14-day quarantine can be drastically cut.
Pictured: Medical staff in full PPE conduct a swab test on travellers after their flight from Ibiza, Spain to Turin, Italy. At Italian airports, all travelers from countries at risk of Covid-19 are tested with swabs to prevent the spread of Covid 19
JERSEY – a British Crown dependency – is operating the same scheme proposed for Heathrow.
Tests are couriered to a lab 40 minutes away from the terminal, with results in 24 to 72 hours. If they test positive, travellers are called by a contact tracing team and told to self-isolate for 14 days.
Those who test negative are free to move around without taking a second test. However, they are texted by phone every day for 14 days asking how they feel. They are asked to reply either ‘WELL’ or ‘COVID’.
If it is the latter, they are contacted by the tracing team. Industry body Airlines UK says there are around 30 European countries offering testing to passengers at airports or accepting tests taken before arrival.
In around 19 of them a negative test either before or on arrival can reduce or cut the need for quarantine. ITALY, CROATIA, HUNGARY, MALTA, CYPRUS, SLOVAKIA and SLOVENIA also have their own test-on-arrival programmes, according to the Airlines UK analysis.
Pictured: A member of the Johanniter tests a traveller arriving from abroad at a Covid-19 testing station set up at Hanover-Langenhagen Airport
Testing negative does not reduce quarantine restrictions in all countries. But having testing in place means they are prepared to use results to ease quarantine measures, should they decide.
In HOLLAND, for example, arrivals can get tests at Schiphol Airport but still have to quarantine for ten days if testing negative.
Beyond Europe, HONG KONG tests all inbound travellers at its international airport. Arrivals have to wait around eight hours for their results and are allowed home to quarantine if negative.
In TURKEY, Istanbul airport has labs in terminals, with results being given within two hours.
In JAPAN, Tokyo’s airports have tested arrivals since April. Results come back in about an hour.
UK’s being strangled – as rivals steal our business
Commentary by John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport
Global Britain is one of the three pillars of this government’s post-Brexit vision for this country. The idea that Britain, freed of the shackles of the EU, will stride the world as a great trading nation – a bridge between East and West – is truly inspiring.
After all, we have so many natural advantages in our language, our location (within a direct flight of 96 per cent of the global GDP), our legal system and – most of all – in the ingenuity and entrepreneurialism of our people.
A small island doesn’t become the fifth-largest economy in the world, or support 33million jobs without being brilliant at international trade.
As chief executive of Heathrow Airport, I see this every day, as 40 per cent of the UK’s physical exports travel through the airport in the bellyhold of passenger planes.
The same planes that carry fresh salmon from a Scottish farm to the sushi markets of Tokyo within 24 hours also carry language students, tourists and the motor company executives who have invested billions in this country.
Those plane seats are also packed with engineers, lawyers and accountants that make Britain one of the world’s great service exporters. It is these exports of goods and services that will be the foundation of Global Britain. And they all travel by air.
Heathrow’s position as the best-connected airport in the world is a huge competitive advantage for this country. No one else can beat a service to New York every 30 minutes, direct flights to over 30 cities in the US, or 12 to China.
Except that those flights and the millions of jobs that rely on them are grounded. Over 860,000 passengers travelled through Heathrow in July – down 88 per cent on the previous year.
Pictured: Terminal 5 at Heathrow was devoid of tourists as business chiefs call for Britain to get flying again. Heathrow would normally handle around 1,300 flights every day in September, with 220,000 passengers coming and going. Yesterday there were just 504 flights landing and taking off, with many planes far from full
Naturally, we all understand that when you are in the middle of a pandemic you need to be very cautious about importing disease from overseas. That is why we supported the blanket quarantine during lockdown, where passengers had to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival into Britain.
And we supported the Government’s pragmatic approach to reopening borders by later allowing free travel from ‘low-risk’ countries. Most of these were short-haul European markets, which opened just in time for the summer holidays. But our long-haul markets, such as the United States, which are so critical for the success of Global Britain, remain closed.
The problem with a blanket quarantine is that it assumes that everyone is carrying Covid-19 – which is just not true. Over 99 per cent of the world’s population has never even had the disease.
A much better alternative is to test people to make sure that only people without coronavirus are allowed in. At Heathrow, we have already set up a testing facility to administer Public Health England’s preferred PCR (polymerise chain reaction) swab tests for arriving passengers.
They are currently sitting idle, as the Government has not given permission for passengers to exit quarantine early if they can prove they don’t have the coronavirus.
I have even been part of a trial of a 20-second Covid-19 test developed by a British company, which is quicker, cheaper and more accurate than the PCR test.
Germany, France and around 30 other countries are moving to testing as an alternative to quarantine. This is starting to get their economies moving again and, in fact, both Frankfurt and Charles de Gaulle airports carried more passengers over the last few months than Heathrow. The first time that has ever happened.
And this is what will happen if the Government doesn’t get a grip and reopen our borders safely.
John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport (pictured): ‘The problem with a blanket quarantine is that it assumes that everyone is carrying Covid-19 – which is just not true. Over 99 per cent of the world’s population has never even had the disease.’
Britain will fall behind. Think about that. If EU airports thrive, while the UK’s hub declines, then Brexit Britain will rely on European hubs to get their global goods to market. And when France chooses to close routes to the UK, what do we do then? Britain will become a vassal state of the EU, just after we have left.
British businesses that rely on trading around the world are already being strangled while our rivals in France and Germany power ahead. I have already had to cut 1,200 jobs and have just started consulting on further cuts. I want to fight for every job – and it makes me angry to see the Government doing nothing to protect jobs when the solution is so obvious.
What makes me more angry is that we are putting this country’s future at risk.
We weren’t born as one of the world’s great trading nations. We got there through hard work and ingenuity over decades of patiently building up international markets. And all that work will be lost if we stand by and do nothing.
Once customers have switched to trading with other countries, it will be twice as hard to get them back. And we shouldn’t be waiting to start testing until every other country has done it. Global Britain should be taking a lead.
Back in May, I called on the Government to develop a common international standard for aviation testing, so that passengers could be tested for Covid-19 in their home country before they fly – and quarantine there if need be. We don’t need to negotiate this with every country, just doing it with the US and the EU would bring most other countries with us.
With our economic and diplomatic skills, this is where Britain can act as a bridge between East and West. We could start with a pilot of testing at both ends of the LHR-JFK route – the most valuable aviation route in the world.
I love the vision of Global Britain. But it has to be backed up with action. Let’s start by testing on arrival to reopen our borders. Let’s help get businesses back to work. And let’s do it today.