Drive-in coronavirus test centre to open at Stansted Airport

Stansted airport during the coronavirus shutdown, taken from a police drone Picture: ESSEX POLICE

Stansted airport during the coronavirus shutdown, taken from a police drone Picture: ESSEX POLICE - Credit: Archant

Stansted Airport is to open a drive-in coronavirus testing centre for NHS workers after flights there were grounded because of the crisis.

The Essex airport was effectively closed after the government stopped all non-essential foreign travel and later imposed a UK-wide lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus.

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Now, with no activity at the base, it is to become part of a rapidly expanding network of testing centres for self-isolating health service workers, or members of their families who are showing symptoms.

The testing site, operated with Sodexo, will provide up to five testing lanes.

The wider network, which will operate on an appointment-only basis, is set to provide thousands more swab tests to ascertain which doctors and nurses have the disease - so they can make better informed decisions about whether to stay at home or continue working.

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At the moment, many NHS workers are being forced to sef-isolate even if they are not 100% sure they have the illness - so increased numbers of tests should enable more to go back to work.

Ken O’Toole, London Stansted’s chief executive, said: “I am very proud that London Stansted has been able to play a small but vitally important part in supporting the government’s drive to test more and more frontline NHS staff by making available one of our main long-stay car parks.

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“During the pandemic we have been in constant contact with the government, and have looked to play our part in the response when and where possible, including facilitating repatriation flights to get people home and hosting more essential cargo flights to bring in vital medical supplies, medicines and food.

“As the airport benefits from excellent surface access and currently has space available to accommodate a large-scale testing area, it makes complete sense for us to offer our parking facilities to support the on-going and fast-moving response to this unprecedented situation.

“This virus has affected communities up and down the country, and we are all in debt to the fantastic NHS and other frontline staff who continue to do all they can to keep us safe and well so it is only right we do whatever we can to help them in return.”

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Health minister Lord Bethell said: “The government is rapidly scaling up the national effort to boost testing capacity for coronavirus to protect the vulnerable, support our NHS, and ultimately save lives.

“This new service will help end the uncertainty of whether NHS and social care staff need to stay at home meaning those who test negative will be able to return to work.”

Professor John Newton, national coordinator for the UK Coronavirus Testing Strategy, said: “New testing sites such as this one are a key pillar of our five-pillar plan to scale up testing, and are critical in supporting NHS staff who are isolating at home to return safely to work if the test is negative.

“This is a brilliant example of industries and businesses turning their resources to creating and rolling out mass testing at scale, which will help to deliver on our aim of carrying out 100,000 tests a day in England by the end of the month.”

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