COVID-19 detection trials to start at London Heathrow
Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, has told the UK’s House of Commons Transport Committee that COVID-19 detection trials are to start at his gateway as beleaguered Britain steps up its battle against the coronavirus.
According to the airport, a key motivation is the desire to drive forward the development of a Common International Standard by trialling technologies and processes that reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Trials will assess for medical effectiveness, passenger response as well as suitability to the airport environment, with the technologies under review said to include UV sanitation, facial recognition thermal screening equipment and contactless security procedures.
Holland-Kaye said: “Aviation is the cornerstone of the UK economy, and to restart the economy, the government needs to help restart aviation.
“The UK has the world’s third largest aviation sector offering the platform for the government to take a lead in agreeing a Common International Standard for aviation health with our main trading partners. This Standard is key to minimising transmission of COVID-19 across borders, and the technology we are trialling at Heathrow could be part of the solution.”
The aim of the collective measures being trialled is to reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 while travelling.
The package of measures that will need to be adopted will consist of tried and tested processes and technology as well as innovations new to the airport environment.
Concepts under review as part of the Heathrow trials include: UV sanitation, which could be used to quickly and efficiently sanitise security trays; facial recognition thermal screening technology to accurately track body temperature; and contact-free security screening equipment to reduce person-to-person contact.
Before any new measures are rolled out across the airport, they will be reviewed against Heathrow’s three tests to ensure that they are medically grounded, build consumer confidence and practical for airports to deliver.
The first of these trials will be a temperature screening technology which uses camera detection systems capable of monitoring the temperatures of people moving through the airport.
These passenger-facing trials will first be conducted in the airport’s immigration halls. If successful, the equipment will then be rolled out to departures, connections and colleague search areas. The trials will begin in the next two weeks in Terminal 2.
As an international hub airport will need to follow an international standard and we are already required to carry out temperature checks by some other countries.
Temperature screening was introduced following previous outbreaks of SARS and Ebola, with some countries using thermal checks as a control measure against COVID-19.
Holland-Kaye’s appearance at the Transport Select Committee follows his recent requests to the UK Government to lead the global implementation of a Common International Standard, as consistency is the only way to ensure continued passenger safety and restore confidence in travel as countries prepare to ease their respective lockdowns.
The key learnings from these trials will be shared with the Government and other UK airports.