Heathrow is offering passengers £80 pre-departure Covid tests to help get the struggling flight industry off the ground.
A trial started today for travellers to Hong Kong, which requires a negative test for entry, but it will soon also include those going to Italy.
The new facilities in Terminals 2 and 5 - operated by aviation services companies Collinson and Swissport - can produce results in 20 minutes, and there are hopes a wider roll-out could eventually eliminate the need to quarantine.
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The new facilities in Terminals 2 and 5 can produce results in 20 minutes, and there are hopes a wider roll-out could eventually eliminate the need to quarantine
The testing centre will initially only serve flights to Hong Kong, but there are plans to expand this
Passengers walking into the testing centre before boarding a flight to Hong Kong this morning
Passengers travelling to Hong Kong were the first to use the rapid testing centre today
The Heathrow centre uses Lamp tests, a rapid form of testing that does not require a laboratory.
Currently the Italian government requires another rapid option - antigen tests - to enter the country.
However, Lamp tests are considered to be better than antigen test by regulators including the US Food and Drug Administration, so if the Italian government agrees to accept these instead the trial could begin for Italy as early as today.
Otherwise it will begin in two to three weeks when the Heathrow centre is also able to process antigen tests.
Italy and Hong Kong are among a growing number of places which require arrivals to present a negative test certificate either before take-off or soon after landing.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said yesterday that the government was also in talks with the United States over a trial of pre-departure tests between the two countries.
Heathrow already has a testing hall for inbound travellers.
Although many countries have adopted pre-take-off tests, Whitehall is putting more emphasis on establishing a 'test-and-release' model in which the quarantine time is halved with a single test seven days after arrival.
This has been rejected by some aviation leaders, including new BA chief Sean Doyle, who fear any quarantine will stifle the economy.
Passengers outside the rapid Covid testing centre inside the arrivals hall of Terminal 5
Speaking to the Airlines 2050 industry summit yesterday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said rapid daily tests could even lead to the end of quarantine altogether
A BBC reporter showing the inside of the new