Airport boss calls for 20-second Covid test to be fast-tracked to rescue economy

Airport chiefs are pleading with the UK Government to speed up the introduction of a Covid-19 test that provides results in just 20 seconds.

Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye is calling for the Virolens test to be fast-tracked following a three-week trial at the airport.

It comes after the Prime Minister announced plans for mass testing under so-called Operation Moonshot, in which millions of people could be tested every day so they could “behave in a way that was exactly as in the world before Covid”.

The test has been developed by British start-up company iAbra and is set to begin clinical trials so it can eventually be certified for medical use.

The company said the test does not need to be administered by healthcare professionals and is repeatable, with each screening device capable of carrying out hundreds of tests per day.

The current gold standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that are conducted in labs use swabs and need to be processed at different temperatures meaning it takes longer to get results.

Mr Holland-Kaye, chief executive at Heathrow Airport, said: “Testing for Covid-19 is the lifeline that the UK economy needs to get back on its feet. Currently the bottleneck is the availability of the Government’s preferred PCR testing labs – rapid point of care tests solve that problem.

“I have experienced iAbra’s test myself, alongside the PCR test – it is quicker and cheaper, and potentially more accurate. We urge the Government to fast track this technology to protect the economy and help save millions of jobs in this country.”

Mass testing will allow people to lead more normal lives, Boris Johnson said at the Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, as he pledged to increase testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.

Outlining the “ambitious” plans, he said: “We think, we hope, we believe that new types of tests which are simple, quick and scaleable will become available and they use swabs, or saliva, and can turn around, results in 90, or even 20 minutes.

“Crucially, it should be possible to deploy these tests on a far bigger scale than any country has yet achieved, literally millions of tests, being processed every single day.”

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