RAPID one-hour Covid tests for holidaymakers are to launch at Heathrow Airport, giving a boost to international air travel.
The tests are to be put in place today so travellers can enter countries that require a negative coronavirus test in order to avoid being quarantined.
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The system will initially be brought in for people flying to Hong Kong and Italy, which permit quick pre-flight tests as evidence the traveller is free from Covid-19.
Anyone wanting the test will have to book in advance and pay a fee of £80.
The Government is also in talks with the US over a trial of pre-departure tests between the two countries.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told airline chiefs passengers could be released from self-isolation if they pass the “rapid daily tests”.
Quarantine would be halved by December, he added.
Other options he outlined include daily testing with no quarantine and a pre-departure test scheme.
He could not offer a timescale as it will require global co-operation through air travel organisations.
But Mr Shapps said: “We’re talking to the US Homeland Security and others. We’d like to get trials set up. That could mean a series of tests involving quarantine before and after flights – or, ultimately, no quarantine at all if the technology is there for rapid daily tests.”
He also said such tests would have to be provided privately and paid for by passengers.
Similar 15-minute tests were rolled out for the first time yesterday on asymptomatic NHS staff at hospitals in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Basingstoke and Southampton.
The aviation industry has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic with passenger numbers down by as much as 90 per cent on some routes.
In the UK, anyone arriving from around 150 ‘high risk’ countries, has to self-isolate for 14 days.
Britain only has four quarantine-free “travel corridors” with ‘safe’ countries which are Gibraltar, Germany, Sweden and Greece.
The Government sent up a task force last month to look out how the country could be opened up to international travel.
The aviation industry is pushing for pre-flight tests to become a long-term solution to the problem.
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