UK government launches testing for international arrivals

Following months of repeated pleas by the travel industry, the government has revealed a plan to reduce the length of travellers’ mandatory quarantine in England

Passengers arriving in England from December 15 could be able to reduce the length of their mandatory self-isolation by more than a week, as the UK government reveals a new strategy for testing international arrivals.

Dubbed ‘Test to release for international travel’, the plan announced by transport secretary Grant Shapps will provide travellers arriving into England from countries not featured on the government’s travel corridor list the ability to take a test after five days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing them from the need to isolate.

Shapps commented: “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 government expects the move to give passengers the confidence to book international trips in the knowledge that they can return home and isolate for a shorter period if they have received a negative test. Those who opt into the scheme will have to book and pay for a COVID-19 test from an approved private provider, ensuring the NHS Test and Trace testing capacity is protected.

Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary added: “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.

“This will be done at the cost of the traveller to protect the capacity of NHS Test and Trace and ensure that any UK resident who has symptoms is able to get a test.”

Travellers who choose to take up this option will still need to complete the ‘passenger locator form’ but are required to specify that they have booked a test.

While this decision is set to be welcomed by the majority of the aviation and travel industry, it comes after months of repeated pleas by the sector to implement a testing strategy allowing passengers to book with confidence.