Heathrow Airport has installed a Covid-19 testing facility ahead of a potential change in government policy on quarantine.
Developed by Collinson and Swissport, the service enables arriving passengers to be tested for Covid-19 upon landing and know the result hours later.
More than 13,000 passenger tests can be carried out each day using the existing facility, which can be further scaled with demand.
It is hoped that with approval from the government, people testing negative during the process will be allowed to exit quarantine early.
The announcement that the testing facility is ready, comes as airport-based Covid-19 testing is embraced by more than 30 countries around the world.
PCR testing at the border has been extensively trialled internationally, in locations with very strong scientific oversight such as Germany, and found to be safe, and now rolled out in France, Iceland and Austria.
Inside the new testing area in Terminal 2, Collinson nurses will be on hand to assist in taking a swab within the facility, which is then transported by Swissport staff to a specifically dedicated Collinson biotech lab near Heathrow.
The tests will be transported using the same protocols as the NHS uses for home swab tests.
Heathrow chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said: “Testing will not only avoid the “quarantine roulette” that so many passengers faced in Spain and France, it will also open up flights to key trading partners such as the US, Canada and Singapore.
“The government’s own research shows that a double test has a high level of accuracy in screening for Covid-19.
“This facility is an oven-ready opportunity to see how Britain can safely reopen for business, as other countries are doing.”
With government support, the pilot of the new testing procedure could be available as a private service to anyone with a flight landing in Heathrow Terminal 2, and within a few weeks for those arriving in Terminal 5.