People traveling immediately after the holidays may face the uncertainty: many private testing labs and clinics are closed on Christmas Day, so testing in the 72-hour window can be difficult, especially for PCR screening, which must be sent to a lab and may take several days to process.
The rapid antigen test, a relatively new tool for detecting the virus, gives a result in about 30 minutes, but it is not as widely available, although it is cheaper. Heathrow Airport, for example, charges passengers around $ 130 for PCR results with 48 hours and around $ 60 for antigen testing with results within 45 minutes.
Both tests are offered at major UK airports – including Heathrow and Gatwick, London’s two main hubs and Manchester Airport – but passengers must register in advance. It was not known how many would be able to procure a test and get a result in time for the trip.
The introduction of new travel restrictions has raised concerns that travelers to the United States will be flocking to the airport, as did Londoners at train stations last Saturday when tougher national rules were announced. But Heathrow employees on Friday described a normal, albeit calmer, flow of passengers typical of Christmas Day, with most appearing to travel on long-haul flights.
Confused by the terms relating to coronavirus testing? Let us help you:
- Antibody: A protein produced by the immune system that can recognize and attach specifically to specific types of viruses, bacteria, or other invaders.
- Antibody test / serological test: A test that detects specific antibodies to the coronavirus. Antibodies start to appear in the blood about a week after the coronavirus has infected the body. Because antibodies take so long to develop, an antibody test cannot reliably diagnose an ongoing infection. But it can identify people who have been exposed to the coronavirus in the past.
- Antigen test: This test detects pieces of coronavirus protein called antigens. Antigen tests are quick, take only five minutes, but are less accurate than tests that detect the genetic material of the virus.
- Coronavirus: Any virus belonging to the Orthocoronavirinae family of viruses. The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is known as SARS-CoV-2.
- Covid19: The disease caused by the new coronavirus. The name is the abbreviation for coronavirus disease 2019.
- Isolation and quarantine: Isolation is the separation of people who know they have a contagious disease from those who do not. Quarantine refers to restricting the movement of people who have been exposed to a virus.
- Nasopharyngeal swab: A long, flexible stick with a soft swab that is inserted deep into the nose to take samples from the space where the nasal cavity meets the throat. Samples for coronavirus tests can also be collected with swabs that do not penetrate as deep into the nose – sometimes called nasal swabs – or oral or throat swabs.
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR): Scientists use PCR to make millions of copies of genetic material in a sample. Tests using PCR allow researchers to detect the coronavirus even when it is rare.
- Viral load: The amount of virus in a person’s body. In people infected with the coronavirus, the viral load may peak before starting to show symptoms, if symptoms do appear.
Several airlines had previously announced policies requiring proof of a negative test after a request from New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo that passengers arriving from London to John F. Kennedy International Airport should provide documentation of a negative test result.
“We cannot let history repeat itself with this new variant,” Mr. Cuomo wrote on Twitter.
Also Thursday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said passengers arriving at Newark Airport would need negative tests within 72 hours of departure to enter.
America’s travel requirements are less draconian than those of other countries in Europe and Asia, which have banned all travelers from Britain after the emergence of the new variant of the coronavirus. Experts are skeptical that travel bans can stop the spread of the variant. In fact, Dr Anthony S. Fauci, America’s foremost infectious disease expert, said there’s a good chance the variant is already in the country.