London Heathrow Airport’s Enhanced Screening Team

Heathrow Airport clinicians are supporting SARS-CoV-2 infected arriving passengers

tails of British airlines jets at an airport

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised United Kingdom nationals to leave China when possible. And when arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport, an enhanced welcoming team is ready to greet you.

According to Public Health England (PHE)’s update on February 20, 2020, a team of public health experts has been established in Heathrow to support anyone arriving from China who feels unwell. 

PHE says teams of 7 clinicians, working in shifts, are now on hand to support patients on arrival. 

These teams are in addition to medical staff who are already permanently in place at all UK airports.

The Chief Medical Officer, Medical Director at PHE and Medical Director at NHSE/I have issued advice alerting frontline staff to increase awareness of the situation and any actions to take.

This PHE advice includes clinical guidance for the detection and diagnosis of novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, COVID-19.

This airport screening advice applies to travelers who are returning to the UK from the following areas:

  • China
  • Thailand
  • Japan
  • Republic of Korea
  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Macau

As of February 20th, a total of 5,549 people have been tested in the UK, of which 5,540 were confirmed negative and 9 positives for the COVID-19 disease.

PHE says ‘most people who develop symptoms will get them after leaving the airport and so the priority is providing UK residents and travelers with the latest information to make sure they know what to do if they experience symptoms or need to respond to someone who becomes unwell.

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If you have returned to the UK from any of these areas in the last 14 days and develop symptoms of cough or fever or shortness of breath, you should immediately:

  • Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu.
  • Call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the country.
  • In Scotland phone your GP or NHS 24 on 111 out of hours. 
  • If you are in Northern Ireland, call 0300 200 7885.

Based on the World Health Organization’s declaration that this is a public health emergency of international concern, the UK Chief Medical Officers say ‘we have been working in close collaboration with international colleagues to monitor the situation in China and around the world.’

‘In light of the increasing number of cases in China and using existing and widely tested models, the UK Chief Medical Officers consider it prudent for our governments to escalate planning and preparation in case of a more widespread outbreak.’

‘For that reason, we are advising an increase of the UK risk level from low to moderate. This does not mean we think the risk to individuals in the UK has changed at this stage.’

‘But that government should plan for all eventualities.’

‘As we have previously said, it is likely there will be individual cases and we are confident in the ability of the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales and HSC in Northern Ireland to manage these in a way that protects the public and provides high-quality care.’

Coronavirus travel news is published by Vax-Before-Travel.