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Published on Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Rapid Covid tests launched at Heathrow

Passengers flying from Heathrow to Hong Kong and Italy have the option from this week of paying for a rapid Covid test before departure.

The test, which is for those travelling to countries where proof of a negative test is required on arrival, costs £80 and the result is guaranteed within an hour.

The rapid saliva swab, available at Terminals 2 and 5, is known as a Lamp (Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification) test. It's quicker than the PCR tests used by NHS because the swabs don't need to be sent to a laboratory, but crucially, the company behind the initiative at Heathrow admits that the Lamp test is also 'slightly less sensitive'.

It won't be accepted by countries that require proof of a negative PCR test, which includes Cyprus, Greece and the Bahamas. But it will be accepted by Hong Kong, say airilnes, and possibly Italy although this has yet to be confirmed.

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific say they offer the Lamp test to their customers.

The new testing facility at Heathrow is not for passengers flying into the airport, who still need to quarantine for 14 days if they're coming from high-risk countries not on the UK's travel corridor list.

Collinson set up a separate testing facility for arrivals at Heathrow over the summer, but it has yet to be used since the government has ruled out testing on arrival as an alternative to quarantine. Instead, ministers are looking at a test-and-release regime, where arriving passengers take a Covid test after seven days in quarantine.

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