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. The consequences of a third wave could also potentially halt international air travel again, plunging the UK back into a third lockdown.
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. The traffic light system would help to protect the safety of both inbound and outbound airline passengers. Salutaris People welcomed the Government’s plans for this to be part of the roadmap for airline travel to resume on 17th May.
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. The healthcare company is working in partnership with the Test Assurance Group (TAG) and Liverpool John Lennon Airport. The express testing suite, which has its own on-site laboratory at the airport, provides clients with a rapid PCR test and certificate in under three hours, offering Fit to Fly and Test to Release alongside 2- and 8-day testing. It is one of the only airports in the UK able to do this, compared to the normal 48-hour turnaround for PCR tests.
The healthcare company is also on the UK Government’s approved list of Covid-19 test providers. 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 Sunderlan
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.’
Salutaris People was formed in 2020 by healthcare entrepreneurs and disruptors Ross Tomkins CEO (Therapy Direct, Normedica) and Ben Paglia CEO (Akea Life). Combining more than 30 years of collective expertise in the healthcare sectors, they wanted to develop a trusted healthcare brand and become a provider of Covid-related medical services. The company provides a range of medical services, including PCR COVID-19 testing for businesses, private individuals and airline passengers. It also supplies rapid antigen and rapid antibody testing for UK businesses and remote telemedicine services for both business and the general public.
Salutaris People believes that digital health passports will become a mandatory requirement for all passengers taking international flights. The company is ‘digital health passport agnostic’ and will work with all tech providers in the marketplace to achieve the ‘best in class’ for its customers. The company currently works with V-Health Passport and is expanding this to work with other digital health passports providers in the marketplace such as Tento, Common Pass and IATA’s Travel Pass.
Ben Paglia, MD of Akea Life, the clinical testing partners to Salutaris People, added: ‘For passengers coming into the UK and those British citizens returning, we need to ensure PCR testing protocols continue to be deployed to identify and keep new strains of the virus at bay. The same process of PCR testing for outbound airline passengers from the UK needs to continue with Fit to Fly.
‘The only sensible way of tackling the issue of testing and authentication is by using a “gold standard” PCR test to determine a person’s COVID-19 status. A negative test result then being uploaded into a health passport and presented at the airport at check-in along with your existing travel passport would be a simple process to manage.’
Akea Life, the clinical partner to Salutaris People, is a CQC-registered, 5-star private GP medical business, providing the UK’s first fully private concierge medical service of private doctors, healthcare professionals and nurses. The practice also retains a COVID-19 Consultant Virologist to advise on all matters related to COVID-19.
Salutaris People, in conjunction with its healthcare and clinical partners Akea Life, Therapy Direct and Normedica, are also offering a unique COVID-19 Concierge Service to clients by bringing private Covid PCR testing to their location. A trained healthcare professional will come to a private residence, hotel or location and administer PCR tests. The tests are then couriered back to the mobile laboratory facilities, providing express PCR results within 1-3 hours. The company also plans to offer this service across the UK in other key locations and airports.