March 8, 2021
There is something rather fitting about Teesside International Airport providing a base to help avert a global crisis.
Where today the site is home to a COVID-19 testing hub, back in the 1940s the airport was known as RAF Middleton St George and operated as a critical cog in the wheel of Bomber Command’s Second World War aerial sorties.
The focus may have changed from fighting a dictator ravaging Europe to thwarting a global pandemic’s spread, but the site’s importance on the international stage remains nevertheless just as prevalent.
Intrinsic to its enduring position as an able facilitator for positive change is the airport’s partnership with Recovery4Life.
Known for providing specialist drug, alcohol and mental health services, the operator pivoted at the beginning of last year’s first lockdown, using its expertise around testing to offer rapid COVID-19 antigen, antibody and laboratory-based analysis.
A key element in the swift rollout of its services was the company’s move to establish a unit at Teesside International Airport in December, which is now providing testing for large numbers of business and personal passengers, as well as local residents.
Complementing testing carried out in Recovery4Life’s Gateshead headquarters, the airport operation is playing a decisive role in helping the North East combat COVID-19.
“We’ve quickly built a wonderful relationship with the airport and have a fully operating on-site unit, which we are using as a hub and bespoke model for the region,” says chief executive John Devitt.
“Demand has been high, and that is with the dramatically reduced number of flights that have been operating due to COVID-19.
“Our testing, reporting and support is available seven days a week and can easily flex to the scale of demand.
“Our testing is the cheapest – and the best – in the region and we offer a number of benefits to people using our services, such as discounted prices if they are travelling from the airport.
“We can set companies up with accounts and are very malleable to what they need, and also provide capacity for same-day bookings, as well as family and group reservations, and free cancellations and changes to all appointments.”
It isn’t just flyers at Teesside International Airport that are benefiting from Recovery4Life’s services, however.
Working alongside its Gateshead base, John says travellers using flights from other airports can use the testing centre at Teesside to ensure they are safe to board.
“The model works really well,” says John, who reveals Recovery4Life also plans to roll out its specialist drug, alcohol and mental health services from its Teesside testing base going forward.
“Obviously, we are on-site in Teesside, but our Gateshead office is only 20 minutes up the road from Newcastle International Airport and neither bases are too far away from Leeds Bradford Airport.”
Such expediency, says John, is particularly crucial given the evolving landscape around COVID-19 testing and differing nations’ requirements of passengers.
He says: “Travellers must present a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test no more than 72 hours before their flight.
“However, what is increasingly happening with many countries, including places like the Netherlands, is that people must have had a rapid antigen test three hours before boarding.
“With that in mind, we work with passengers to get their tests done and ensure that, by the time they get to the airport, we’ve sent them their certificate electronically to enable them to fly.”
Furthermore, John says the organisation’s testing provision is helping manoeuvre the region’s commercial landscape – which includes the impacted tourism sector – into a position to flourish again post-pandemic.
He says: “We are really trying to help businesses restart and get going.
“Against that backdrop, we want to support Teesside International Airport meet its objectives around business and personal travel, as well as freight.
“We will work with the carriers when operations ramp up again and provide airside testing, which will include testing passengers in the executive lounge.
John adds: “The tourism industry has to be able to show it can operate safely; when people get on a plane, they want to know that when they see passengers in the seats around them that they have all been tested and are free of the virus.
“That will be the gold standard going forward.
“To that end, we are now engaging with a number of travel agencies so that when people are booking their flights, the operators are able to reserve them slots for tests at the same time.
“Until the world is vaccinated, we are going to need testing.
“And, even if the world is vaccinated, there is always going to be variants of the virus.
“That means it is absolutely imperative to have a robust testing system, and we are committed to playing our part in that to help ensure people stay safe and well.”
Praising the work of Recovery4Life at Teesside International Airport, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen says:
“Since the start of this pandemic, we have made it clear that the health and wellbeing of local people has been our top priority.
“We’re delighted to be working alongside Recovery4Life to give people from Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool the ability to book a coronavirus test right on their doorstep.
“This has been giving local people peace of mind and will continue to be a hugely important facility as restrictions on travel get lifted,” adds the mayor, who previously returned the airport to public ownership.
“As we reintroduce our schedule of flights connecting the area to the globe via London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol, people need to know that they are safe and well and fit to travel for business or pleasure.”