England’s quarantine is to be cut to five days for arrivals if a Covid test is taken after five days.

The new rules which were announced early this morning say that for visitors to the UK, or those returning after a holiday away, can shorten their 14-day quarantine if they pay privately for a Covid-19 test and it is negative.

Passengers arriving into England will be able to reduce mandatory self-isolation by at least a week, as the government launches its new strategy for testing international arrivals.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that from December 15, 2020, passengers arriving into England from countries not featured on the government’s travel corridor list will have the option to take a test after five days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing them from the need to isolate.

Passengers have to book and pay for a coronavirus (COVID-19) test from a private provider on a forthcoming Government list to ensure that NHS facilities are not used.

The ‘Test to release for international travel’ means that passengers arriving into England by plane, ferry or train should book their test before they travel; must complete a passenger locator form; and will still need to self-isolate for 5 days before taking a test – rather than taking it at their port of arrival.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said:

“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 5, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic.”

This ‘test and release’ has been lobbied for by the travel industry for several months, but there is frustration that it does not coming in until mid-December, only applies to England at the moment, and is not accompanied with any news about the government’s plans to restart the travel industry which has lost tens of thousands of jobs in the UK alone.

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic said: “The introduction of air passenger testing on day five is a vital first step to reopening the skies in the run up to Christmas. However, a five day quarantine is likely to prove a significant deterrent for travellers, especially those on business. 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.”

“Moving to a pre-departure regime, supported by latest independent evidence, would be twice as effective as quarantine. Passengers should be able to take a test from up to 72 hours before departure, including a rapid test at the airport on the day of departure. Valid tests should include PCR, Rapid Point of Care LAMP and lateral flow technologies used by government in other settings, with no diversion from NHS testing capacity. We call on the Government to follow the evidence, support industry trials, and lead the way in allowing free movement of people and goods to resume. We hope that testing will also lead the way for US borders to open to UK travellers.”

The Chair of the Transport Select Committee, Huw Merriman MP, said:

“This welcome Government announcement will allow passengers to take to the skies and seas with safety and certainty.   It will also provide a much needed boost to our aviation sector and a workforce who have borne the brunt of the Covid pandemic.  It’s essential that the Government does not stop there but embraces new testing developments to reduce the quarantine period further still. Business rates relief for our airports, called for by our committee in June, will give our airports welcome financial breathing space until the vaccine further encourages demand.”

Joss Croft, CEO, 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.”

The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) welcomed the Transport Secretary’s announcement. Dale Keller, chief executive of BAR UK said ”With this announcement, passengers can now book in the confidence that they will travel in safe, clean and secure environments created by the world’s airlines and airports, and no longer need to endure a 14-day quarantine on their return. We are particularly pleased the Government acted upon our proposals that passengers should have the option to order a home testing kit rather than travel potentially long distances to take a test.”

The new rules can be read on the UK Government’s website here

Test to Release: England introduces testing strategy for international arrivals