Passengers flying from London Heathrow to Hong Kong will be able to have a rapid Covid-19 test at the airport before checking in, after the UK’s first pre-departure facility opened on Tuesday.
The tests, which must be pre-booked, cost £80 and results will be available within an hour.
Although a very limited number of passengers are expected to use the facility this week, the move is regarded as a significant breakthrough in demonstrating the possibility of clearing passengers as healthy before travel and potentially ending quarantine rules.
However, the first day of operation also highlighted the hurdles to be overcome, as Italy, expected to be part of the launch, declined to recognise the tests on offer at the new facility at Heathrow.
A spokeswoman for Collinson, the medical and security assistance firm providing the tests, said that Italy was clarifying its position on the Lamp – or loop-mediated isothermal amplification – test used at Heathrow, but the facility would also move to introduce antigen tests in line with Italian requirements in the coming weeks.
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific, which all fly routes that require pre-departure tests, will be the first airlines to offer it, according to Collinson and its partner in the facility, Swissport.
The Lamp test uses a throat and nose swab and differs from a PCR test, which is used by the NHS, because it can be processed quickly without being sent to a laboratory.
Anyone entering England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from somewhere that is not on that country’s list of exempt travel corridors is required to go into self-isolation for 14 days.
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