Florida airport claims first in US for rapid virus tests

Passengers traveling through Florida’s Tampa International Airport starting Thursday can take a rapid coronavirus test, officials said, claiming to be the first US airport to offer such tests.

In this pilot program customers can pay $57 for a 15-minute antigen test, or $125 for a molecular PCR test, which takes longer but is widely considered more precise, airport officials said.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday said that Florida, population 21 million, will soon have access to 6.4 million rapid tests, with a first tranche arriving this week.

The kits will be first sent to nursing homes and schools, he said.

Cases of the novel coronavirus in Florida have been decreasing after peaking in July, with a high of 15,300 new cases a day. At the time it was one of the as country’s virus hotspots.

In the past two weeks Florida has reported an average of nearly 2,500 new cases a day — although the number of tests have decreased considerably.

Citing the drop in cases, DeSantis on September 25 reopened Florida’s businesses, eliminating restrictions on bars and restaurants, while preventing mayors from fining people for not using a face mask, a decision that took local authorities by surprise.

According to Johns Hopkins University, which has been monitoring the spread of the virus, Florida’s test positivity rate is 11 percent, even though the Florida Health Department says it is around five percent.

The discrepancy, according to local media, is because the Florida’s official figures do not include positive retests, which skews the final results.

More than 100 people have died of Covid-19 in each of the past three days in Florida, bringing the average of daily virus victims to 94 in the past week, the Tampa Bay Times reported Thursday. (AFP)