Many Governments see travel testing as a burden, not a priority
Summary – Creating a testing infrastructure at airports as a way of kick-starting travel is not a priority for Governments. Many even see it as an unwelcome distraction. The industry needs to take the initiative and make it happen itself.
Aviation industry groups worldwide are asking Governments to take action, and introduce COVID testing as a way to get people flying again.
For example, there have been regular appeals to US and EU regulators to use testing to restart wide-scale transatlantic travel.
But is it realistic to expect Governments to make it happen? Do Governments even see helping aviation and travel as a priority? If we take the UK as an example, the evidence is that they don’t.
The UK’s transport Minister Grant Shapps often takes to the airwaves to dismiss the accuracy of testing, when in fact University of Hawaii research showed it would stop up to 90% of COVID-positive passengers getting through.
Yesterday, speaking to Sky News Shapps even said that there is “no certified COVID test in the world that gives results in minutes.” Actually, there are a number either available now or in development.
Then the country’s Health Minister, Matt Hancock, made a fairly revealing comment when he said the following:
“I’ve heard stories of people saying, ‘I’m going on holiday, I’m going on a flight, I’m going to get a test to see if I’m okay.’ That is not acceptable.”
So there we have it. Holiday makers looking to go abroad are a burden. A strain on the system. An annoyance.
The inference is that testing for travel takes away resources from more ‘deserving’ areas. It’s much simpler to instead use the blunt instrument of quarantine roulette.
Though the examples are from the UK, the thinking can be seen in other countries as well, who are in no hurry to help aviation by reopening borders through testing.
The industry needs to make this happen
So what’s the solution? The industry needs to make this happen. As the UK examples show we can’t wait for Govts to act. They won’t.
Proof of concept trials need to take place. The results need to be independently validated and presented to the authorities. Then the industry needs to create the testing infrastructure, with the cost being passed onto the passenger.
The evaluation of three new tests taking place at London Heathrow Airport are a good start, as are the planned trials run by Vancouver Airport and WestJet.
Meanwhile McMaster HealthLabs, Air Canada and Greater Toronto Airports Authority are conducting a voluntary COVID-19 study of arriving international travellers.
Finally, in our newsletter yesterday we talked about the very impressive results that Lufthansa released about the Centogene testing facility at Frankfurt Airport.
This shows what is possible, with test capacity at the airport being increased from 5000 to 10,000 a day.
Carrying out pilot studies, as well as creating a global industry registry of approved tests are some of the recommendations we’ve made in our Testing + proposal, which you can read here.
Paul Charles on the importance of testing to replace quarantines
Paul Charles of the PC Agency led a campaign that made “blanket quarantines” the shortest-lived policy in UK’s history. How did he do it? Is Testing the answer? Shashank Nigam and I discussed it with him.