While Britain struggles to get its national test-and-trace system running more efficiently, travelers will be able to get rapid coronavirus tests at an airport for the first time. Fliers leaving Heathrow Airport in London can get a rapid test for 80 pounds ($104). Starting Tuesday, people going to Hong Kong can take a pre-departure test to meet entry requirements there, the airport said.
The service will initially be offered for four weeks and passengers must book it ahead of time. The tests will be done by private-sector nurses, with results expected within an hour.
Heathrow, Britain’s largest airport, has been urging the government to allow it to offer more testing, particularly to arrivals, in an effort to boost travel. Heathrow argues that on-site testing would limit the need for two-week quarantines for people arriving in Britain. Government ministers have disagreed.
As an international hub, Heathrow Airport typically sees more than 80 million passengers a year. But during the pandemic, governments have introduced a range of travel restrictions, and passengers have been wary of venturing too far from home, causing overseas travel to plummet. The airport said 1.2 million passengers traveled through it in September, down 82 percent compared with 2019.
Heathrow hopes its new program could be the start of a more expansive testing regime in the airport. For now, the airport will offer a test known as LAMP, which is not as sensitive as PCR testing, used by the country’s national health service. PCR tests can detect active infections even before symptoms appear, though with a daylong turnaround. Heathrow plans to add antigen tests, another type of rapid testing, later.
The airport also said that travelers to Italy would be able to use the test, but Collinson, one of the companies administering the plan, said it was still in talks with the Italian government, the BBC reported.
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