Testing for novel coronavirus has been available at Václav Havel Airport Prague for over a month. It has proven to so popular with both travelers and city residents on weekends that police are now needed to keep order in the lines.
People arriving at the airport now first go to one of three testing stations. The usual automated announcement warning people to attend to their luggage has been joined by a second one telling people waiting to be tested for COVID-19 to stand two meters apart.
While the testing, performed by accredited GHC Genetics, is primarily intended for passengers, about one-third of the people using the service are members of the general public. The advantage of the airport testing station is its flexibility, as it is open from 4 am until midnight. The airport is also easy to reach and is more familiar to many people than hospitals and other testing locations.
It is possible to make an appointment online and pay in advance, but people can also get tested on a walk-in basis and pay on the spot by debit card or cash in crowns or euros.
An express test costs 7,500 CZK with results in three hours, while a standard test costs 1,250 CZK and has results sent by email in 12 hours. The test can be confirmed by a doctor for an additional 550 CZK.
The express tests are used by about 10% of the people coming in, as they prefer to know right away whether they can travel or if they need to isolate themselves instead.
One checkpoint is located in the public area of the airport in the connecting corridor between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. It is intended primarily for departing passengers who need a negative test result to enter their final destination. The other two checkpoints are located in the non-public area of both terminals.
The weekend demand can outstrip the capacity of all three stations. “With the coming weekend, hundreds of people flocked here, and even though we are working until midnight, we had to reject the increasing number of interested parties as early as 3 pm,” an employee at a testing point told news server Lidovky.cz.
Due to the need for spacing, the lines at all of the checkpoints snake become long. A line with 200 people, which is not uncommon, would extend 400 meters.
The line now has to be managed by the police and airport security. Employees recount that tempers can flare up, as people often wait over six hours to be tested and begin to shout at the staff.
But, according to social media reports of people who have been there, normally the line is quite orderly, with the police and security staff helping to direct people.
According to paramedics from the test station at the airport, due to more frequent departures, the weekend is always more demanding and there are many more people interested than during the week. On weekdays, if somebody is lucky they can get tested without waiting.