Several major world airports are offering or requiring Covid-19 testing on-site for arriving international passengers.
Meanwhile, airlines in the US and Europe see a coordinated
international testing programme as a potential alternative to the
quarantines and entry restrictions that are quashing transatlantic
Perhaps the most widespread airport Covid-19 testing is taking place
in Germany, where travellers coming from high-risk areas, including the
US, are required to be tested within 72 hours of arrival. Testing is
available free of charge at airports, among them Berlin Tegel, Berlin
Schonefeld, Munich, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf. In Frankfurt, for example,
two testing stations have been established, each of which is open 18
hours per day.
And under a programme announced by Lufthansa for arriving
international travellers to Munich and Frankfurt in late June, test
results are provided within four to five hours. Those who get negative
results are immediately free of two-week quarantine requirements.
Even more rapid turnaround is offered at Tokyo's Haneda and Narita
airports. Local media reported in late July that the airports had begun
offering Covid-19 antigen tests with a one-hour turnaround time. Testing
capacity at Haneda was expected to increase to 3,800 people per day,
according to the financial news outlet Nikkei Asian Review.
Also offering Covid-19 tests is Istanbul Airport, where the US$16
tests began in early July. Capacity per day is approximately 40,000
tests. Results are delivered within two hours.
At Hong Kong Airport, meanwhile, arriving passengers are required to
take a shuttle bus to a testing location, according to the airport
Efforts like these, if coordinated across borders, could be the key
for opening up international travel while the Covid-19 pandemic
continues. At least that's what some major airlines think.
Last month, the CEOs of American, United, the Lufthansa Group and
International Airlines Group (parent of British Airways) penned a letter
to US vice president Mike Pence and European commissioner for home
affairs Ylva Johansson, calling for the creation of a joint US-European
Union Covid-19 testing program to facilitate the restart of
transatlantic travel. Currently, the US bans travellers from the EU and
the UK. The EU bans visitors from the US, while the UK requires
travellers to quarantine for 14 days.
Josh Walker, co-founder of Utah-based Nomi Health, which does
Covid-19 testing under contract with the states of Utah, Nebraska and
Iowa, said he believes coordinated testing programmes could help
countries around the world ease travel restrictions. But it won't be
"I do think it is possible," Walker said. "Will it take some efforts to get there? Absolutely."
Nomi, Walker said, has had talks with Miami Airport, London Heathrow
and one large foreign airline about conducting their testing.
He said that for a coordinated testing programme to work, a single
protocol would need to be established by the various regulatory
authorities. For example, flyers could begin the process by entering
basic registration information at the same website. They would also need
to be tested using standardised technology and have the tests completed
within a specified time frame.
Walker said that while airports doing Covid-19 testing upon arrival
is a good step, a better approach would be to mandate tests before
departure. Perhaps, he said, an airport could set up testing sites,
on-site or off-site, which flyers would be required to visit for an
appointment within 24 hours of their flight. That way, results could be
delivered before flying.
Results could potentially even be encoded on boarding passes, he added.