As of May 21, London’s Heathrow Airport has begun a trial for thermal screening technology to detect elevated temperatures of arriving passengers. Information gleaned from the trial will be shared with the U.K. government, to aid the rapid creation of a Common International Standard for health screening, needed to unlock global trade and travel.
The technology under trial uses camera detection systems capable of monitoring the temperatures of multiple people moving through the airport. Passengers will be alerted to the trials through signage placed at the immigration hall, but will otherwise see no visible change to their arrivals journey as no other screening methods will be needed. No personal data will be stored or shared through these trials.
If successful, the equipment may be rolled out across the airport into departures, connections and colleague search areas to further stress test its capabilities. Heathrow is clear any measures or technology must satisfy certain tests if it is introduced as mandatory in the future, including: satisfy medically grounded science; able to build confidence amongst passengers; and be practical for airports to deliver.
Temperature screening is part of a wider set of processes and technology set to be trialled at Heathrow that are looking at how the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 while travelling can be reduced. All operational Heathrow colleagues are now wearing face coverings and will be handing out face coverings to any arriving and departing passengers who do not have their own. This is in addition to the provision of over 600 hand sanitizer stations, enhanced cleaning regimes, prominent signage featuring government health advice, perspex barriers for frontline contact points and social distancing reminders.
Heathrow will also explore the use of UV sanitation to quickly and efficiently sanitize security trays and contact-free security screening equipment to reduce person-to-person contact.
The launch of the trials comes as the U.K. government considers the implementation of “air bridges” across destinations with low COVID-19 risk, to protect public health while enabling the travel of goods and services that is needed to kick-start the economy.
Current expert advice suggests that temperature checks at U.K. airports are not required, however, it is hoped learnings from this trial will help governments introduce the policy framework leading to a global Common International Standard for health screening.
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “To unlock the full benefits of aviation for the economy, a Common International Standard for health screening must be agreed by the global authorities – and the technology we are trialling now could be a part of this solution.”