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Instant results Drive-thru Covid tests near Dublin Airport could make Christmas travel possible


V1medical Founders: Fiona O’Flaherty and Niamh Power

V1medical Founders: Fiona O’Flaherty and Niamh Power

V1medical Founders: Fiona O’Flaherty and Niamh Power

HIGH fliers Fiona O’Flahery and Niamh Power have the answer to anxious travellers passing through Irish airports – an almost instant Covid-19 text.

The industrious pair are both pilots with medical backgrounds and launched their new drive-thru testing facility at Dublin Airport, offering rapid antigen testing for COVID-19 with results in 30 minutes.

At the start of the pandemic, Niamh and Fiona completed almost 500 hours of the humanitarian flights to China for the PPE for the HSE.

Then, as time went by, the aviation industry suffered terribly as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

This left the pair with lots of time to research the latest developments in COVID-19, eventually leading them to discover the important role of antigen testing in the overall defence strategy against the virus.

V1medical is based at Furry Park in Santry. Rapid tests cost €95, and it can also send mobile testing teams to homes, workplaces or social gatherings such as weddings.

“Our busiest day booked to date is Christmas Eve,” says co-founder and pilot Fiona O’Flaherty. “I think a lot of people want to use this type of test just for reassurance… it’s like a seat belt; you can’t guarantee you won’t have an accident or be injured, but the chances are so much lower.”

The company uses Roche Rapid Antigen Tests that involve swabs taken while you sit in the car. Unlike PCR tests, which can take hours or even days to process, results quickly follow.

Antigen and PCR are both swab tests diagnosing active infections. Where PCR tests detect the virus’s genetic material, however, antigen tests detect proteins from it.

Antigen tests are faster, cheaper and usually very accurate, but they are marginally less sensitive than molecular tests and the Irish Government does not currently allow travelers to use them in order to bypass quarantines here.

The Canary Islands do, however – for holidaymakers from countries that, like Ireland, have an ‘orange’ travel rating.

V1medical says its certificates will be accepted there, opening up the possibility of a winter sun corridor (since the Canaries are also rated ‘orange’, Ireland’s quarantine can be avoided by showing a negative PCR test result on the way home).

Airlines have consistently called for rapid, affordable antigen testing to restart travel. Several airports offer it in Europe, and the European Commission last month recommended its widespread use.

At €95, V1medical’s test compares to the lowest PCR test rates already available at Irish airports, rather than subsidised €25 antigen tests in the Canaries. But prices may fall if antigen testing is given official approval and competition and volume picks up.

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The news comes as Ryanair added 24 extra Christmas flights in Europe “as a result of increased demand”, though Government and public health officials continue to advise against non-essential overseas trips.

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