The devices will be piloted in the immigration hall, but if the experiment succeeds they will be deployed in departure and transit areas as well as in the cabin-bag search area.
While the British government has reportedly expressed scepticism about the efficacy of temperature testing at airports, Mr Holland-Kaye asked members of a parliamentary committee this week to keep an open mind and “take a lead”.
He said a set of internationally agreed airport screening processes should replace the current “haphazard” and “uncoordinated” approach worldwide.
A coordinated effort could underpin moves by countries to relax their mandatory two-week quarantines for arriving travellers – as is required in Australia and France, and which may be introduced in Britain.
“The key issue is whether people will be allowed into the country they are going to, and that they are allowed back again,” Mr Holland-Kaye said. “For this we will need a common international standard … The quicker we can get on that the better.”
Heathrow also wants to reduce the risk of transmission further in the security search area. It plans to trial “contact-free security screening equipment to reduce person-to-person contact”, and also use UV rays to “quickly and efficiently sanitise security trays”.
Some airports have already gone it alone on thermal screening for arriving passengers, and various measures have previously been used in the SARS, bird flu and ebola epidemics.
But according to the Airport Technology website, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has concluded that “scientific evidence does not support entry screening as an efficient measure for detecting incoming travellers with infectious diseases”, a finding backed by the World Health Organisation.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has found that more than 40 per cent of cases could pass through entry and exit undetected, as the carriers would still be in the incubation period.
The International Air Transport Association has also called for temperature screening of passengers, airport workers and travellers.
The industry body Airlines UK has floated the idea of a three-tiered system of airport and aircraft hygiene and screening. Governments could set their preferred level, and airlines would have to comply with whichever standard was higher, that of the departure country or the destination.