Explainer: what will airport testing mean for international travel?

ireland
Drive-through testing began at Dublin Airport today.
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Muireann Duffy

Covid-19 testing centres are now operating at three Irish airports after a drive-through testing facility opened at Dublin Airport this morning.

This comes after similar testing centres were established at Cork and Shannon airports last week.

It is hoped that airport testing will allow for greater levels of international travel, particularly with the adoption of the EU's traffic light system, with test results able to be given prior to departure.

Here's everything you need to know about the airport testing.

Who is responsible for these tests?

Irish company RocDoc and Randox are responsible for the testing at the three centres.

RocDoc previously supplied field hospitals for events, such as the Isle of Wight Festival, but moved to operating express turnaround testing facilities due to the pandemic.

According to RocDoc, LAMP and PCR Covid-19 tests which are approved by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) are available, with prices starting at €129 per test.

What's the difference between a LAMP and PCR test?

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Both LAMP and PCR are types of tests used to determine whether a person has Covid-19, using a swap to take a sample from the back of the throat or inside the nose.

PCR tests have been widely used for over 20 years and detect traces of viral RNA in the sample. They tests are very sensitive and can produce results within three to four hours.

LAMP is a newer technology and is described as 'highly specific', requiring the sample to come into contact with that same viral RNA in order to trigger a positive test result.

LAMP tests offer a quicker turnaround of results but if the swab is taken from an area that is not infected, or if it is too early or too late in the infection cycle, the test may not detect the virus.

For this reason, PCR tests are currently the preferred method.

Can I only get a test if I'm travelling through the airport?

No. The three facilities are also offering tests to the general public.

People wishing to avail of testing services must pre-book before being tested.

Currently, the centres in Dublin, Shannon and Cork are drive-through facilities, meaning people check-in and are tested in their vehicles.

A second, walk-in centre is also expected to open at Dublin Airport next week.

How do I book a test?

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In order to book a test at any of the three locations, you must first fill-in the form on the RocDoc website where you can also see what time slots are available at each of the centres.

A headshot is required as part of the booking process to verify the right person shows up for the test.

In Cork and Shannon, the centres can test up to 75 people per hour, with the ability to increase this number if needed and the on-site labs can process up to 1,500 tests a day.

In Dublin, the DAA have said the daily capacity of the two centres there will be 12,000, with plans to increase it to 15,000.

Does this mean I can fly wherever I want?

Not exactly. The current guidance remains that all but essential travel should be avoided.

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Also, different countries have different rules in place regarding passengers entering, so best to check the specifics of that country if you do need to travel.

Some have put mandatory isolation periods in place, while others require a negative test. Some countries have even specified what type of Covid-19 test is required, PCR or LAMP.

For European countries signed up to the EU traffic light system, passengers from orange regions must supply a negative test taken no more than three days before arrival in order to avoid having to restrict their movements.

Passengers from green regions are not required to isolate, while people arriving in Ireland from red regions after November 29th will be able to stop restricting their movements after five days if they have a negative PCR test.

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