In a move that is likely to make travelling to England more attractive, the government has drastically reduced quarantine period for visitors from most destinations if arriving passengers pay for a COVID-19 test within five days of arrival.
Less Quarantine From Dec 15
The British transport secretary announced that as of December 15, travelers arriving into England will have to self-isolate just five days instead of the current 14 under a new testing strategy of the UK government.
CNN reported that under the new rules, all international arrivals from destinations absent from England’s travel corridor list will have the option to take a Covid-19 test after being in quarantine for the shorter period.
Test and Release, Says England
Those who receive a negative result will be permitted to refrain from self-isolating, but must continue to follow domestic COVID-19 rules. The “test and release” as reported by CNN scheme requires passengers arriving in England by plane, ferry or train to book and pay for the test themselves. It’s unclear whether the scheme will eventually cover the rest of the UK.
Quarantine Period Cut: More Freedom
“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business,” says UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. “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 UK’s mandatory two-week quarantine came into effect on June 8 and was heavily been criticized by many in the travel sector, who saw it as an obstacle to both tourism at home and for British people wanting to take a break overseas.
These rules were subsequently relaxed for those arriving in England from approved destinations, but this list changes weekly and travelers from countries that aren’t considered “green” have been required to keep to the two-week quarantine.
Long Overdue, Say Travel Trade In England
The rules will come into force from 15 December and the tests from private firms will cost between £65 and £120. The British travel industry welcomed the policy but described it as “long overdue”.
The BBC said that under the new travel rules, passengers who arrive from a foreign destination not on the government’s travel corridors list will still need to enter self-isolation.
However, if they pay for a test after five days and it comes back negative, they will no longer need to self-isolate. Results will normally be issued in 24 to 48 hours. This means people could be released from quarantine six days after arrival.
After England: Scotland, Northern Ireland Next?
Scotland and Northern Ireland are considering a similar scheme while Wales said it was “supportive in principle of the proposals for a Test and Release scheme”.
The BBC report quoted a Welsh government spokesperson as saying: “We will need to consider the data and evidence underpinning this scheme before making any decisions on changing international travel restrictions in Wales.”
Scotland said it was working with the main commercial airports in Scotland and clinical advisers to understand the risks and benefits of the scheme as well as the capacity of private sector labs to conduct testing to a minimum standard.
A spokesperson told the BBC that it is important that any travellers arriving in the UK understand, and respect, the different restrictions in place in the different nations.
That means that if someone is flying into England but their final destination is an address in Scotland, it would not be possible for passengers to take the test in England.
Northern Ireland’s Department of Health said: “Consideration is currently being given to the implementation of testing scheme which could potentially allow those who have arrived in Northern Ireland from a non-exempt country to end their self-isolation following receipt of a negative test, which would be privately provided.”