Heathrow Airport wants to open its own coronavirus testing facility to replace quarantine measures

Testing could reduce the amount of time travellers have to spend in quarantine (Photo: Shutterstock)

Heathrow Airport has announced that arriving passengers may soon be able to book swab tests instead of quarantining on their return.

Currently, if passengers are returning from a country not on the UK's exemption list, they must undergo a 14 day period of self isolation.

However, under new plans unveiled by the airport, arriving passengers would instead be able to immediately test for coronavirus, with results arriving within seven hours. Those who tested negative could leave quarantine within five to eight days after landing.

Heathrow airport has says the testing facility is now "ready for use", commenting that the economic effect of the facility would be "significant" - allowing thousands to get back into public life more quickly post-travel.

How will it work?

The pilot may see a private facility erected for anyone with a flight landing at Terminal 2. Following this, a service will be available to those arriving at Terminal 5 within a few weeks.

The swabs used would be identical to those used by the NHS and would be booked online.

The current cost for the service is £150, but it's hoped this could be reduced to £50 per passenger if a state subsidy was introduced.

Similar schemes are already being used in some countries around the world, including Iceland and Germany. The scheme, however, still needs government approval before it can commence.

Awaiting the green light from the government

Heathrow Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye told Sky News that Prime Minister Boris Johnson needs to "get a grip of our border policy" and give the green light to stop "holding back the recovery of the UK economy."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said ministers are currently working with the airport to find a way for post-travel quarantine to be reduced, working out whether such a scheme could be feasible.

Also speaking to Sky News, he said, "The challenge is - because the virus can incubate inside your body without coming forward and without therefore a test being positive even if you've got it - the challenge is how to do that testing in a way that we can have confidence enough to release the quarantine.

"It is absolutely a project that we are working with Heathrow on. I clearly understand the impact of quarantine on so many people's lives. It is not something anybody would want to do. So I hope that this project can bear fruit."