Europe's busiest airport is now offering $100 coronavirus tests that give results within an hour

By Grace Dean

Passengers at Europe's busiest airport, London Heathrow, can now take a $100 rapid COVID-19 test if they're flying to Hong Kong and Italy, which require proof of a negative test result on arrival.

From Tuesday, passengers at Heathrow Airport can pay £80 ($104) for the tests, which guarantee results within an hour.

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Cathay Pacific will be the first airlines to offer the tests, which are only available for passengers leaving the UK.

Flyers book a Lamp (Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification) test online ahead of time, and take it before checking in at two of the airport's four terminals. 

The test is "not as sensitive" as the lab-processed PCR test commonly used by the UK's health service, Collinson, the company behind the scheme, said in its press release.

Passengers have their nose and throat swabbed, and the samples are processed on-site by biotech company Prenetics.

Lamp tests might be able to detect patients immediately after infection, before symptoms are displayed, Collinson added, but this is "unsure at present."

Read more: Pfizer and Moderna are neck-and-neck in the race to deliver the first effective coronavirus vaccine. Here's everything we know about the timeline and when you might be able to get a shot.

Some countries require proof of a negative result upon arrival. Both Hong Kong and Italy require all travelers from the UK, where cases are relatively high, to provide a negative test before being allowed in, either before departure or on arrival.

However, the Lamp test will not suffice for Britons traveling to Greece, Cyprus, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. These countries require travelers to take a PCR test.

Collinson plans to add other pre-departure tests in the future, such as antigen tests, it said.

In August, Heathrow unveiled a large test-on-arrival facility for passengers built by Collinson and logistics firm Swissport — but it is still awaiting government approval. If the testing is authorized, it could reduce the length of the current 14-day quarantine period for passengers arriving in the UK from certain countries.

German airports including Frankfurt and Munich offer free rapid COVID-19 tests to travelers returning from high-risk countries.

France will introduce rapid COVID-19 tests at airports by the end of October for passengers traveling to the US and Italy, as well as for arrivals from high-risk countries.

Finland, meanwhile, is trialing dogs to test travelers for COVID-19. Helsinki-Vantaa airport claims this could be a quicker and cheaper method than traditional tests.