‘Test to release' strategy to reduce quarantine period for travellers next month
Passengers arriving into England from 15 December will be able to finish their quarantine earlier than 14 days if they have a negative Covid test after five days of self-isolation.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has today announced that passengers arriving from countries not on the government's travel corridor list will have the option to take a test after five days of self-isolation.
Passengers will have to book and pay for the test from a private provider on the government's list themselves.
Those arriving into England by plane, ferry or train will have to book their test before they travel, complete a passenger locator form, and will still have to self-isolate for five days before taking a test, rather than taking it at their port of arrival.
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.
"The ‘test to release' scheme is announced as the government introduces new financial support for English airports and ground handlers serving them. This support, which will shore up jobs and reinforce local economies, will be available to commercial airports in England. The support will address fixed costs and be equivalent to the business rates liabilities of each business, capped at up to £8m per site, and subject to certain conditions. This scheme will open in the new year."
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "The government has considered the evidence which demonstrates that a test after five days of self-isolation provides materially better results than just having a test on arrival, as it allows time for the virus, should it be present, to incubate, helping reduce the risk of a false negative result."
Health secretary Matt Hancock added: "Ensuring that safe travel is possible has been a priority for the Global Travel Taskforce. This test on day five of the 14-day self-isolation period will identify positive coronavirus cases and allow those who test negative to return to work and see their loved ones while abiding by domestic coronavirus restrictions."
The government said it will also continue to explore pre-departure testing with countries.
Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, said: "Implementing testing after five days and reducing quarantine is a step in the right direction but the prospect of visitors having to self-isolate for any length of time will continue to significantly impede demand and therefore risk jobs in the UK's valuable inbound tourism industry.
"Tourism is a competitive business, and when we can travel again, we need a best-in-class testing regime, negating the need for a lengthy self-isolation, otherwise competitors who do have these systems will reap the benefit. Tourism will be able to significantly aid the UK's economic recovery but right now businesses are struggling to survive and until a more rigorous system is in place, international visitors will not return in numbers.
"The government needs to provide a targeted resilience fund for inbound tourism businesses and access to grants from which they have previously been excluded, to ensure they can survive the winter."