The Telegraph today has launched a campaign called Test4Travel to scrap quarantine through airport testing.
Exclusive survey data compiled for Telegraph Travel by travel consultancy, The PC Agency, and independent market research company, AudienceNet, polled 2,139 respondents. The poll shows that 62 per cent of the population supports a test on arrival in the UK rather than a 14-day quarantine and more than half would be willing to cover the costs of a test.
Nearly three-quarters of those polled would prefer an on-arrival test and 5 days of self-quarantine followed by another test rather than the current 14-day mandatory quarantine.
This tallies with what Telegraph Travel readers indicated in their own Twitter poll last week, where 92 per cent want testing introduced at airports to remove the need for quarantine. The majority of readers said they would be happy to pay.
According to The Telegraph Twitter poll, asking how much people would be prepared to pay to take tests to avoid quarantine, 41 per cent said they would pay up to £50, 19 per cent would pay up to £100, and 19 per cent would pay up to £150.
Across the wider general public, 52 per cent are prepared to pay a minimum of £50 for a test, if it meant they could avoid a quarantine, according to data from PC Agency and Audiencenet. Of those 52 per cent, 38 per cent would pay up to £50, 10 per cent would pay up to £100, and 4 per cent would pay up to £150.
TravelSafe Systems test costs only €38 so the additional costs of staff and capital costs of the test machines can easily be recovered within the expectations of the majority of travellers. More important, however, is the creation of a safe testing regime that protects staff and travellers. TSS has campaigned for this approach for some time. We focus on both preventing importing the virus and on not exporting the virus, supporting multi-lateral testing on departure. In support of the campaign, Nigel Trim, co-CEO of TSS commented as follows which the Telegraph has published.
Coronavirus tests on departure are key to ending travel chaos, says Nigel Trim, co-CEO of TravelSafe Systems
As Covid-19 continues to impact around the world, the travel sector is taking catastrophic economic hits across its entire ecosystem. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, in 2019, the global sector accounted for over 10.3 per cent of global GDP and one in ten jobs, which has now diminished by almost half. A coordinated and collaborative multi-government and industry approach to address this issue – the second phase of the approach advocated by the Telegraph Travel campaign Test4Travel – is lacking.
Quarantine on arrival is a blunt instrument and hugely damaging to consumer confidence and to the travel sector itself. Some airports, such as London Heathrow, have been pushing for testing on arrival to avoid quarantine but the UK Government says that this is “only a point in time test” and that travellers may subsequently develop symptoms.
Nick Lambe and I, joint chief executive officers of TSS, have been campaigning for many months on a multilateral approach to testing on departure.
TSS has a rapid point-of-care solution that comes in an easily carried box – ie, the ‘lab in a box’. It can be used at an airport for mass testing prior to entry. It ensures Covid-free ‘green zones’ and Covid-free air corridors, should countries agree to test all passengers moving between them.
Its testing solution is a molecular genetic test that employs Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) technology. LAMP, which has a 20-year history of use in molecular genetics testing for pathogens, is described by the European Commission as ‘an isothermal variant of PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction)’ testing.
The TSS test is fully CE/IVD certified for use in human diagnostics. The certification records 100 per cent diagnostic specificity, 100 per cent exclusivity and 100 per cent inclusivity. With 12 points of attachment to SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA, plus six internal controls per test, the analytical sensitivity (or Level of Detection) of the test has been confirmed as one copy of viral RNA per microliter of sample.
The ‘lab in a box’ testing machine produces results within 40 minutes, creating a digital output of the result to a secure mobile application that can be integrated with airport and airline entry and boarding control systems.
This provides numerous benefits. Many countries demand a negative test certificate at check-in or on arrival. Paper test certificates can be forged, whereas the digital application provided by TSS – the iWarrant – provides a secure digital solution. This certificate covers the traveller for up to 72 hours. This is based upon the medical fact that an individual cannot infect others within this timeframe from themselves first being infected.
If completed the day before or on the day of departure, testing ensures people are not infectious when they travel, creating safe ‘green zones’ and flights for airport staff, crew and passengers, boosting confidence.
The travel experience inside the airport and on the plane is more comfortable and ‘normal’, with no requirement for masks and social distancing. Nor is quarantining required on arrival.
The LAMP procedure is more practical than PCR. It can be used on departure or arrival, does not require a laboratory and is more robust in the field. LAMP is currently the best solution available to provide the testing sensitivity to enter areas safely, such as airports, for up to 76 hours.
Obtaining PCR tests in some countries can also be difficult and costly, ranging from £100-£200 per test, while the LAMP test costs approximately €38 (£33.77) or less and can be included in the airline ticket price. Currently, an on-arrival positive test means that all passengers and crew must be traced and quarantined, placing the burden on the receiving country.
Moreover, setting up a testing facility for passengers arriving requires space for sampling, testing and waiting areas. In addition, a protocol for dealing with passengers testing positive is also required. At the end of a flight, however, people want to leave the airport as quickly as possible.
The most efficient way to stop the spread of the virus is to stop it at country borders. Countries should test on departure and stop those that test positive from travelling. This would give fellow travellers peace of mind that all have been tested and it would, according to the Airports Council International and International Air Transportation Association, decrease the risk of importation of the virus by at least 90 per cent.
This only works if the testing is of the sensitivity delivered by RNA amplification techniques, such as those offered by LAMP, which give protection to travellers. Many people travel out and back within 2-14 days. Testing at both departure points would greatly increase that number, avoiding the need for quarantine.
Collaborative testing on departure between states is a sensible approach creating a protective corridor, providing global statistics and monitoring data for which the WHO has been calling.
The Government should set an example by testing all outbound travellers and requiring reciprocal arrangements with other countries. This protocol is to everyone’s benefit, saving a vital part of the global economy and logical protective containment of COVID-19. It should also consider a temporary freeze on the Airport Departure Tax to help fund departure testing.
Multilateral testing agreements and establishing Covid-free air corridors would obviate the current unsatisfactory and highly damaging start-stop situation.
We want governments to work together for economic recovery and give the public the confidence to travel safely again – which, according to Test4Travel, is also what the public wants, too.