Stansted Airport launches Covid-19 testing for passengers in 'major step forward in opening up UK to safe travel'
Stansted Airport has launched a new Covid-19 testing facility for passengers today (Thursday December 3) in what has been described as "a major step forward in opening up the UK to safe travel".
The development, in the week the Government lifted England's international travel ban at the end of lockdown, is designed to offer maximum flexibility for those flying from the Uttlesford hub and from Stansted owner Manchester Airports Group's (MAG) Manchester and East Midlands bases, as well as for those returning from abroad.
The full range of tests will be available in the main terminal, delivered in partnership with airport services and travel medical provider Collinson. Prices start at £40 for antibody tests, £50 for antigen tests, £79 for RT-LAMP tests and £99 for RT-PCR tests.
MAG, the UK's largest airport group, also became the first operator to give passengers the chance to book discounted pre-flight testing appointments on the high street at selected Boots stores.
Stansted's managing director, Steve Griffiths, said: "As England emerges from a ban on international travel, we know our passengers are keen to start flying again, but many of Stansted's most popular destinations require a negative test before you arrive in the country.
"This new facility will make the process of showing you're infection-free when booking a holiday as easy and cost-effective as possible in the current circumstances. Our new booking portal makes it easy to select the right test for your destination and at the location that is most convenient for you.
"This also means Stansted is perfectly placed to support introduction of a UK arrivals testing regime, which will enable travellers to reduce the length of time they need to self-isolate if they test negative.
"Subject to the relevant tests securing Government approval, this could free people from quarantine after just five days.
"This is the latest example of MAG leading the way as we look to work with the Government and the rest of our industry to get Britain flying again."
Having a full range of tests available at the airport – for anyone planning to fly who does not suspect they have Covid-19 – will let passengers choose the appropriate process to meet the pre-departure testing requirements of countries like Spain and Italy as well as some long-haul destinations.
Passengers will also be able to book the tests they need to shorten their self-isolation period on return to the UK under the Government's 'Test to Release' scheme.
It will launch on Tuesday December 15 and enable travellers arriving from higher-risk countries to reduce their quarantine from 14 to five days with a negative test.
Boots offers an in-store RT-PCR Covid-19 testing service, which returns results within 48 hours from more than 50 stores across the UK, specifically for customers who do not suspect they have Covid-19. MAG passengers will be able to access a 5% discount through the airport's website.
MAG said its service will adapt as Government travel requirements change. An online booking portal enables passengers to choose the correct test and testing location for their specific requirements.
David Evans, Collinson joint chief executive, said: "In order to restore confidence in travel, it's critical that travellers can navigate the many different testing regimes now required by different governments around the world.
"We were the first company to set up Covid testing facilities at a UK airport and our partnership with MAG will bring comprehensive testing facilities to Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports. This is a major step forward in opening up the UK to safe travel.
"Our new facilities will also support the Government's 'Test To Release' programme and are flexible enough to respond to any changing requirements or legislation from both a pre-departure and inbound testing perspective.
"Having breadth of testing capability and the flexibility to scale is critical to ensuring the aviation and travel sector can recover from this pandemic, helping to protect jobs and restore consumer confidence."
- PCR testing is the most sensitive test currently available, able to detect active infection some days before the patient is infectious or symptomatic. It is the gold standard test used in the NHS and takes between 5 and 24 hours to produce a result.
- LAMP testing is another form of genetic test, able to detect the RNA of the virus. It is a more recent development than PCR and is generally faster and cheaper, but not considered to be quite as sensitive.
- Antigen testing is the fastest and cheapest of all lab tests for Covid-19. Unlike PCR and LAMP, the genetic material of the virus is not searched for, but rather the protein structures on a virally infected cell produced by Covid-19; usually the so-called ‘spike’ protein.
- Antibody testing looks for the presence of virus antibodies in the system. Their presence indicates the patient has previously had Covid-19, as their body has developed the antibodies necessary to fight off the virus. However, a lack of antibodies does not indicate that the person has not had Covid-19, as not every patient develops them and much is still to be understood about how long they persist.