Posted on 27/10/2020

#Transport #United Kingdom

Flying to Hong Kong just got easier with new rapid Covid-19 facilities at Heathrow

In an effort to tackle the ongoing pandemic, Heathrow has launched pre-departure rapid Covid-19 testing facilities for their passengers. As of now, these tests are reserved for passengers who are flying from Heathrow to Hong Kong. The rapid-testing facilities were introduced on October 20, and will be put on a trial run for the next three weeks. This period could be extended if there is a high demand for the tests from both the passengers and the airlines.

Rapid testing facilities

Rapid testing facilities alicephoto/123RF

Heathrow has been working in close partnership with the aviation services firms Collinson and Swissport to deploy rapid testing facilities. They are using testing technologies that have proven to be faster and more efficient, like the LAMP and Antigen tests. These are different from the regular RT-PCR test that is currently being used by other airport facilities around the world. The results of these tests are processed at a much quicker rate and it does not have to be conducted in a laboratory. This means that the passengers will be able to have their results in just 60 minutes. At the moment the rapid testing facilities are using LAMP tests, but they are also looking to add Antigen tests in the future.

The tests do come at a price and passengers will have to pay 80 to undergo a rapid Covid-19 test. They will also have to book the procedure beforehand and come to the airport with sufficient time to get their tests done before their flight. The airlines that are offering pre-departure testing are British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airlines and Cathay Pacific. All of these aircrafts fly to Hong Kong, and you can find the facilities in terminals 2 and 5 in Heathrow airport.

The aviation industry is one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, and it has been trying to offer support to their passengers while keeping air travel up and running. "We launched 'Test-on-Arrival' to help get the travel ecosystem moving again and are now launching pre-departure testing to help support passengers departing the UK too," states David Evans, Joint CEO at Collinson.

Passengers who do not want to pay 80 to get tested can still board their flight provided they show a negative result that was obtained 72 hours before departure. Heathrow emphasises that a negative result doesn't mean that passengers will not have to self-quarantine when they reach their desired destination. They will have to check the restrictions that the government of Hong Kong has outlined about the self-quarantine procedures.