Passengers flying from Heathrow to Hong Kong on Tuesday will be the first to have the option of paying for a rapid Covid test before checking in.
The test will cost £80 and the result is guaranteed within an hour.
The aim is to help people travelling to destinations where proof of a negative result is required on arrival.
A growing number of countries have classified the UK as being “at risk”, meaning travellers from the UK face more restrictions but this test should help.
The authorities in Hong Kong now require people to have a negative test result, taken within 72 hours of a flight from London.
The rapid saliva swab, which is now available at Heathrow Terminals 2 and 5, is known as a Lamp (Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification) test.
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific will now offer this test to customers.
Confidence to Travel
A Lamp test is quicker than the PCR test, which is widely used in the NHS, because the sample does not need to be sent to a laboratory.
Collinson, the company behind the initiative at Heathrow, admitted that the Lamp test is “slightly less sensitive” than the PCR test.
However, the Lamp test is considered to be much better than another rapid option – the antigen test.
Passengers would only have to turn up at the airport an hour earlier and this testing should help give people confidence to travel, because flights will be “Covid-secure”.
It is hoped that this rapid testing will help open up routes between the UK and other countries as more countries will change their rules and accept these types of rapid tests.
However, the new testing facility at Heathrow is not for passengers flying into the airport.
That means it will not have any immediate impact on the UK’s two-week travel quarantine for people arriving from “at risk” countries.
Collinson set up a separate testing facility in arrivals at Heathrow over the summer. However, that facility has not been used by passengers, because the government has not yet given its backing to testing people on arrival.
Ministers have promised that next month, they will give their formal approval to people paying for a test after a week of quarantine, to avoid the full two weeks.
The government is looking at another system, under which people could take one test two or three days before they fly into the UK, and then another test when they arrive.
That could mean that when you arrive in the UK from an “at risk” country you could avoid quarantine altogether.
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