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Published on Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Boots' 12-minute Covid test warning

Travellers are being warned that Boots' planned new 12-minute Covid-19 test isn't accepted by most countries that require proof visitors don't have coronavirus.

The antigen test, which will be available in store 'within weeks' and will cost £120, has been hailed by some as a game-changer as it will deliver results must faster than existing Covid tests, which can take up to 96 hours.

However, Boots has confirmed that the new rapid test isn't a suitable replacement for the laboratory-analysed polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which holidaymakers must take to prove they're not infected with coronavirus before travelling to several countries.

Announcing the new 12-minute test, it said: "This test is not currently approved as a pre-flight testing service, which requires a PCR test and for results to be processed via a registered lab."

Both antigen and PCR tests appear to be accepted by Italy, although this might change and agents should advise clients to check the Foreign Office website for updates before booking a test.

Most other destinations that require proof of a negative Covid test on entry insist this is a PCR test analysed by a registered lab.

Countries that require a PCR test include Cyprus, Hong Kong, the Maldives, some Caribbean islands including Antigua and Barbados, and the UAE including Dubai.

Nana Asmeni Pavlou, tourism officer for the Larnaca Tourism Board in Cyprus said: "Passengers from Category B countries (including the UK) have to conduct a test confirming negative PCR for Covid-19 issued from a certified laboratory."

Boots acknowledges the 12-minute tests are not currently accepted by most destinations requiring proof of a passenger being Covid-free, but it hopes this will soon change. It says that the service will be aimed at those who have no symptoms of the virus but want some peace of mind.

The pharmaceutical chain has also launched its own PCR test, which delivers results within 48 hours. It is already available in 10 stores in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Boots has plans to extend the programme to more than 50 outlets across the UK.

Both its antigen test and its PCR test cost £120, which is cheaper than many private companies, some of which charge as much as £200 for in-clinic tests and £180 for a mail order service. Boots said the price could drop, depending on demand.

The 48-hour test has 99% accuracy and the 12-minute test about 97%, says Boots.

Harry Kyrillou, Commercial and Aviation Director at luxury specialist Planet Holidays, said: "Cyprus is a small island and although tourism is key to the island's economy, they cannot afford to take risks and at the moment the 12-minute test offered by Boots is not 100% reliable. As a specialist we appreciate why Cyprus is not accepting this rapid test for the time being."

However, Isleworth Travel General Manager Brett Gerrett said: "The new rapid-result test from Boots is an antigen test, and currently the guidance shows that Italy is happy to accept a valid PCR test or an antigen test. On the face of it, therefore, the Italian authorities certainly should accept this new test.

"We hope very much that this will help Italy to open up to holiday visitors from the UK again, and will give confidence to British visitors in terms of visiting their favourite Italian destinations once more."

Ted Wake, Director at short break and Italy specialist Kirker Holidays, said: "We are delighted that Boots has launched a Covid-testing service for customers, which is one of the first to be widely available to the public - it will certainly help to encourage customers who wish to travel to Italy and other destinations which require clients to present a negative test certificate on arrival.

"I have no doubt that many more pharmacy businesses in the UK will offer Covid-testing in the near future as this process becomes part of the new normal.~ In the meantime, our own experience of clients who have been travelling to Italy over the last two weeks is that they welcome the opportunity to take a test, and find it reassuring to know that all others travelling with them have had to undertake the same test.

"Congratulations to Boots on launching their new product, we look forward to other companies launching similar services to the travelling public very soon."

By Lisa James, Deputy Editor (UK)

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