Travellers arriving in the UK can cut COVID quarantine time, if they pay for a test
Written by Rother Radio News on 23/11/2020
Travellers who arrive in the UK from countries with high infection rates will be able to shorten their quarantine from 14 days to five if they test negative for coronavirus on the fifth day, the Department of Transport has said.
Passengers will have to pay for the tests themselves, and will need to book with one of the private providers on the government’s list.
Authorities said they want the scheme, which will come into effect on 15 December, to boost travel without putting additional pressure on the NHS.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We have a plan in place to ensure that our route out of this pandemic is careful and balanced, allowing us to focus on what we can now do to bolster international travel while keeping the public safe.
“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business. By giving people the choice to test on day five, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic.”
Critics have said the measure should have been implemented earlier to facilitate travel over the summer break. But those making a living during the winter season, like Tom Staines who owns a ski chalet in France, are breathing a sigh of relief.
“This is great news for us,” he said.
“Shortening the quarantine from 14 days to five is going to mean that our guests are going to be able to travel out. Many have indicated that short quarantine they will be able to cope with whereas 14 days they can’t.
“We’re hoping the lack of bookings we’ve had since the summer will turn around in the next few days, with some level of certainty on the ability to travel.”
But some travel industry figures point out that even a shorter quarantine is still a major barrier to travel.
Paul Charles, the chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “This measure is not going to be for everyone.
“There are some people who will find it easy to quarantine on their return but many people can’t and they also may not be able to afford it, especially if they’re a family of four, it could cost hundreds of pounds for them to get a private test after five days.
“But we have got to see a phased return to what life was like before COVID, and this is a start of that pathway to normality.”
The government said testing five days into self-isolation will ensure no COVID-19 cases are missed because it will allow for the incubation time of the virus.
Airlines like BA and Virgin Atlantic want the government to implement pre and post-flight testing, which they said could scrap the need for quarantine altogether.
Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said: “The only way to fully reopen vital trading and travel links, support the UK’s economic recovery and protect more than 500,000 jobs supported by aviation, is to move to a robust pre-departure testing regime to safely replace quarantine as soon as possible.”
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has gone further, saying that travellers will need to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to board the carrier’s flights.
Mr Joyce said the move would be a “necessity” when vaccines are available and that he thought it would be “a common thing” among airlines in future.
But for now, in a sector where hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk, there is hope tat testing five days after arrival in the UK may be the first step to recovery.
© Sky News 2020