Hong Kong passengers are now able to test on departure at Heathrow Airport.
In a major step forward for international travel, Heathrow Airport is now offering rapid tests on departure.
From today, passengers flying to Hong Kong and Italy will be able to get a test at the airport before boarding, with results guaranteed in just one hour.
The Oxford University ‘LAMP’ tests are being carried out at testing facilities in Terminals 2 and 5 and require a saliva sample which is processed on site. Currently, most PCR tests are sent to a laboratory with results returned several hours or sometimes days later. Laboratory-based testing on arrival is mandatory in Hong Kong and passengers have endured waiting times as long as 19 hours this month.
Travellers departing from Heathrow can pre-book the rapid test online at a cost of GBP80, a significant saving on many private clinics in the UK which are charging up to GBP400 for a same-day PCR test result. Passengers are recommended to allow an extra hour for the testing process. The tests are carried out landside by Collinson nurses and processed onsite by biotech company Prenetics.
Earlier this month, Virgin introduced pre-flight rapid testing for its cabin crew and pilots on flights to Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Aviation services company Collinson and logistics firm Swissport, who have been instrumental in the setting up of rapid testing at Heathrow, describe the new pre-departure testing regime as a “crucial next step toward keeping the travel industry moving while limiting the spread of the virus”. Both companies have also called on the UK government to introduce rapid testing on arrival in a bid to reduce quarantine times.
“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,” said Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye.
Hong Kong health secretary Sophia Chan said this week that the government is looking at setting up a Covid-19 testing laboratory at Hong Kong Airport to facilitate the arrival of travellers arriving as part of the proposed travel bubble arrangement with Singapore. She said that it will be important to facilitate travel once the pandemic begins to ease and an airport laboratory could shorten the testing time for tourists. However, there was no mention of reduced testing times for arrivals, many of whom are Hong Kong residents, from other destinations.
Passengers interested in using the new Heathrow rapid departure tests should register online here. The testing facilities will initially be available for four weeks.