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Rapid airport Covid testing begins

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Rapid one-hour coronavirus tests for £80 are being offered at Heathrow – but only if you’re flying to Italy or Hong Kong.

Collinson and Swissport have launched the tests and say the testing facilities are a critical step in the travel sector’s recovery, restoring traveller confidence, and re-opening routes from the UK to the rest of the world.

The facilities, located in terminals 2 and 5, will initially offer passengers travelling to Hong Kong and Italy the option to fulfil those countries’ pre-departure testing requirements at the airport before they fly.

Hong Kong and Italy currently require passengers to provide evidence of a negative Covid test prior to departure, but allow for testing technologies that can deliver fast results.

These tests, including LAMP and Antigen tests, can easily be administered pre-flight at the airport.

LAMP stands for loop-mediated isothermal amplification. It involves taking a throat and nose swab and differs from a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which is used by the NHS, because it can be processed quickly without being sent to a laboratory.

The tests will be carried out by Collinson nurses in new facilities within the airport terminals. Passengers must book their test online with Collinson before going to the airport.

The swab will be processed at the airport by staff from one of Collinson’s biotech partners, Prenetics.

Pre-departure is one of a number of testing regimes being implemented around the world, and a crucial next step toward keeping the travel industry moving, while limiting the spread of the virus. The testing facilities will initially be open for four weeks, monitoring passenger and airline demand.

Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airlines all fly routes that now require pre-departure tests, and so it is hoped this facility will ensure a smooth and safe pre-flight experience for these passengers.

David Evans, joint CEO at Collinson, said: “With countries around the world adding the UK to their list of ‘high risk’ countries, we need to find a way to work with governments, leading travel brands and other commercial entities to safely open up travel out of the UK.

“Government restrictions around the world will continue to fluctuate, but we, with our medical services and biotech partner network, have the capability to flex our offering to bespoke country needs, ensuring that, whatever the restriction, we can provide a way to keep travel moving, safely, without negatively impacting UK public testing capacity.”

Sean Doyle, chief executive at British Airways, said: “The UK’s economic recovery depends on the swift re-opening of the UK’s skies and we need a worldwide agreement that fast, reliable pre-departure testing is the safest and quickest way to get people flying again.

“The latest data from IATA suggests the risk of contracting Covid-19 on aircraft is extremely low. It’s vital we work together as an industry to explore every option to get travel moving.”