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Travellers jetting off to Italy and Hong Kong can benefit from new one-hour rapid coronavirus tests. Holidaymakers will be required to book their test in advance and foot the bill.
Tests will cost £80, but promise a fast result and entry to both destinations.
It comes as the number of coronavirus cases growing across the UK has lead to the nation being categorised as “high risk” by more countries around the world.
Visitors from the UK hoping to visit Hong Kong are now required to take a coronavirus test within 72 hours of their departure.
It is hoped that the fast-results Covid test will offer an efficient lifeline for those who need to fulfil this requirement.
From Tuesday, travellers departing from Terminals 2 and 5 to Italy and Hong Kong will be offered LAMP testing.
The facilities are then anticipated to expand, offering antigen tests in the coming weeks.
Unlike PCR tests, which are used by the NHS, LAMP and antigen tests can be processed without being sent to a laboratory.
Walking through the testing facility, BBC transport correspondent Tom Burridge explained: “In there you would have booked your test online before you come here. It will cost you £80.
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“You come in and a trained health professional will take a saliva swab from you. It’s a pretty standard procedure, we’re all kind of familiar with it by now, on a cotton bud effectively.
“The type of test they are using here is called a LAMP test. It means the sample you give can be analysed here on site.”
Testing facilities will be open for an initial four weeks.
It comes as the airport records just 20 percent of its pre-Covid passenger foot traffic.
Aviation services company Collinson and logistics firm Swissport described the pre-departure testing regime as the “crucial next step toward keeping the travel industry moving while limiting the spread of the virus”.
Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “These facilities will make it easier for passengers going to those countries to get a test and have the potential to provide a service for arriving passengers.
“Ultimately, we need a common international standard for pre-departure testing, and we welcome the UK Government’s recent announcement that it wants to take a global lead in establishing this.
“We will work with them to make this happen as soon as possible so that we protect livelihoods as well as lives.”
The tests will not have any impact on the current quarantine measures, but the aviation industry is calling for the Government to consider testing on arrival to help reduce the length of time arrivals must self-isolate.
David Evans, joint chief executive officer 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.”
Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airlines all fly routes that now require pre-departure tests.
Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive Shai Weiss said: “As long as the 14-day quarantine remains in place, demand for travel will not return and the UK’s economic recovery, which relies on free-flowing trade and tourism, cannot take off.
“Half a million UK jobs depend on open skies and a fully functioning UK aviation industry.
“The Government’s global travel task force must act swiftly to replace quarantine with passenger testing in November.”
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