Heathrow and Edinburgh airports to trial temperature checks - here’s how it works

Thursday, 7th May 2020, 12:16 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th May 2020, 12:16 pm
Cameras will initially be used to monitor arrivals in immigration halls in Terminal 2 (Photo: Shutterstock)
Cameras will initially be used to monitor arrivals in immigration halls in Terminal 2 (Photo: Shutterstock)

As the UK prepares for Boris Johnson’s lockdown exit plan to be revealed on Sunday (10 May), there is plenty of speculation about what our “new normal” could look like.

Until the discovery of a vaccine, social distancing measures are expected to remain in place, while travelling abroad looks set to involve more stringent checks.

Heathrow Airport has announced it is trialling large-scale temperature checks and has called for common health screening standards around the world for air travellers.

Will airports start checking my temperature?

Heathrow will start using thermal cameras to carry out temperature screenings of passengers within the next fortnight.

The cameras will initially be used to monitor passengers arriving in the airport’s immigration halls in Terminal 2.

If successful, it could then deploy checks in departures, connections and staff search areas.

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, said it will trial technologies and processes that could potentially form the basis of a common international standard to health screening at airports.

It is hoped such measures will help encourage passengers to return to flying.

He said: The UK has the world’s third largest aviation sector, offering the platform for the government to take a lead in agreeing a common international standard for aviation health with our main trading partners.

“This standard is key to minimising transmission of Covid-19 across borders and the technology we are trialling at Heathrow could be part of the solution.”

Are other UK airports introducing temperature checks?

There are currently no temperature checks in place at airports in the UK, but with Heathrow now trialling such measures, it could potentially become commonplace in the future.

Edinburgh Airport is also due to start testing the temperature of departing passengers, making the announcement after the news of the Heathrow trial.

Checks are expected to start later this month or in early June as part of an effort to reassure passengers.

However, the testing of arriving passengers is the responsibility of the UK Government Border Force, which said measures are “under review”.

Public Health England (PHE) do not believe that temperature checks for arriving passengers are an effective way of keeping the public safe.

PHE have implemented a number of other measures, including early warning of illnesses on flights, a UK wide public information campaign.

Thermals screenings have been in use by airports in a number of countries for several weeks, including Singapore Changi and eleven airports in the United States.

When asked about introducing temperature checks at UK airports, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It’s something we considered as part of our response to this pandemic, and the advice of the scientific and medical experts was that it was not something that would be effective.”

Professor Ashley Woodcock, associate dean for clinical affairs and professor of respiratory medicine at University of Manchester, said around three to five per cent of the population are asymptomatic, have a normal temperature and are carrying Covid-19.

He said: "I don't see how temperature screening helps control cross infection. We have to assume everyone is infectious and make sure our own protection is good enough."