A pre-departure rapid Covid-19 testing facility is being launched today – and there are hopes that it could allow more travellers to go on holiday again.
The facilities in Terminals 2 and 5 at Heathrow Airport will initially offer tests to passengers travelling to Hong Kong and Italy before they fly.
The private test costs £80 and aims to provide results in around one hour, with passengers interested in using the facility required to book a test online before making their way to the airport.
Airport bosses have called for a “common international standard for pre-departure testing” to protect the travel industry.
Earlier this month, the Government unveiled a task force to develop a coronavirus testing system as a potential way of easing quarantine restrictions for arriving passengers.
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.”
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.”
How the tests will work – and what could happen next
To start, the facilities will offer LAMP testing – a swab and saliva test – and will expand to offer antigen testing 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.
Announcing the launch, 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”.
The testing facilities will initially be open for four weeks.
The announcement follows the launch of Collinson and Swissport’s test-on-arrival facility at Heathrow in August, which is still sitting empty as it has yet to gain Government approval for use.
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.”