A British healthcare company at the forefront of Covid-19 testing has warned that if the UK Government presses ahead with the use of lateral flow testing for international airline travel, it could trigger a third wave of infections.
Salutaris People operates across the UK, providing private Covid-19 testing for airline passengers, individuals and businesses.
It believes that the only way to safely resume international air travel and get confidence back into the aviation sector is to insist that all passengers have a “gold-standard” PCR test.
It also advocates the use of health passports to authenticate Covid test status and vaccination history, along with the mandatory wearing of face masks.
The company’s experts, who have long been advocates of a traffic light system for air travel, believe this is also a crucially important factor in the resumption of safe air travel.
Ben Paglia, MD of Akea Life, the clinical testing partners to Salutaris People, said: “The idea of using a lateral flow test as a ‘cheaper’ alternative to PCR testing and to make this more affordable to airline passengers is frankly astonishing.
“After we have made such incredible progress with the vaccination programme rollout – and the incredible hardships and sacrifices many people have had to make in lockdown – why would the Government drop its guard now and risk a potential third outbreak and a rise in infections?
“All it takes is for one person to have a false test result using a lateral flow kit and an entire plane of several hundred people could be at risk.
“The Government’s suggestion to allow airline passengers to also potentially administer their own lateral flow tests would also set a very dangerous precedent and hinder the accuracy of results.
“The number of false negatives can increase significantly simply due to the lack of understanding people will have in testing themselves. This in itself can also lead to the ‘false reassurance’ that a person is ‘negative’ when in fact they may be positive or asymptomatic but carrying the virus.
“We know that when the tests are administered by trained healthcare professionals, the results accuracy will increase significantly. This is why the tests are indicated for healthcare professional use only.”
Salutaris People is the lead partner in the first rapid PCR test facility at a UK airport.
Salutaris People will have 5 clinics operating by the end of this month, including Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Wilmslow in Cheshire, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Stockton-On-Tees and Sunderland. These sites will provide Covid-19 testing for all airline passengers in the North East who want to fly from Newcastle International Airport and Teesside International Airport. Both the Liverpooland Wilmslow sites will provide Covid-19 testing for airline passengers wishing to fly from Manchester Airport and Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
Ross Tomkins, MD of Salutaris People, commented: “An outbreak of Covid-19 infections would not only halt all international air travel again, but damage the economy even further and risk taking the country back into a potential third lockdown.
Lateral flow tests have a role to play in the testing cycle, but not at the expense of allowing someone to board a plane who may have be infectious or asymptomatic.
Airline travel was a major accelerant in the first stages of the Covid-19 virus being spread.”