British Airways trialling ‘game-changer’ COVID-19 test with results in 25 seconds

May 13, 2021

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British Airways is hoping to greatly reduce the time spent waiting for COVID-19 test results for travel.

While some private testing results can take 48 hours or more, British Airways announced on Thursday it will be the first airline in the world to conduct the Pelican ultra-rapid COVID-19 antigen tests that deliver results within just 25 seconds.

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The test is a non-invasive saliva test that delivers what the manufacturer calls “PCR-like accuracy” of 98% sensitivity and 100% specificity in symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.

Related: Spain removes COVID-19 test requirement for British travellers from 20 May

The trial will initially be limited to the airline’s flight and cabin crew. British Airways will compare the test results of this ultra-rapid test against its standard test results. Though if the trial is successful, BA CEO Sean Doyle hopes to include this as an option for passengers who require a negative test result for travel.

Antigen tests are not considered to be as reliable as PCR tests, though they are usually much cheaper, easier to obtain and deliver results more quickly.

Critically, the U.K. government has advised that it will accept antigen/lateral flow test results, such as these, to satisfy the requirement of a negative COVID-19 test to enter the U.K. This is provided the test meets performance standards of greater than 97% specificity, greater than 80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml, which this Pelican test meets.

Related: What kind of COVID-19 test will I need to travel and how much will it cost?

If the trial is successful, it could be a game-changer for travellers who need a COVID-19 test to return to the U.K. Being able to get a test result and certification to fly within 25 seconds could prove to be a massive step towards the resumption of travel. Of note, even the green list countries in the U.K.’s traffic light system require two COVID-19 tests: one prior to departure and one within two days of arriving back in the U.K.

Featured image by VioletaStoimenova/Getty Images.

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