Quarantine is to be cut to seven days: Taskforce plans coronavirus testing push to slash isolation from two weeks in bid to save travel industry
- Travel quarantine to be cut from two weeks to one under new government plans
- Increased use of testing could allow the current 14-day restriction to be slashed
- Tests would have to be paid for by passengers to avoid piling pressure on NHS
Travel quarantine is to be cut from two weeks to one under plans to get Britain flying again.
A taskforce set up by ministers has concluded that increased use of Covid testing could allow the current 14-day restriction to be slashed next month.
The group’s report, expected to be approved by the Government, has recommended travellers returning from virus hotspots should be asked to quarantine for five days before being tested.
Provided the test is negative, they would then be released from self-isolation two days later.
Travel quarantine is to be cut from two weeks to one under plans to get Britain flying again. Heathrow airport is pictured above
Tests would have to be paid for by passengers to avoid piling pressure on the NHS. A conventional swab test can cost more than £100 if bought privately, but prices for new fast-turnaround tests are expected to fall to as little as £5 next year as production is ramped up. As the Mail revealed this week, the Global Travel Taskforce also recommends a phased restart for the cruise industry from January.
The cut to quarantine is a significant victory for the Mail’s Get Britain Flying campaign, which was launched in September to help prevent the collapse of the aviation and travel sectors. But it falls short of airline demands for testing on arrival in the UK, which Government scientists say would miss too many cases.
The quarantine regime dealt a major blow to hopes of an aviation industry revival when it was introduced in June. Travellers must self-isolate for 14 days or face a £1,000 fine unless they are returning from a small number of countries on the travel corridor list.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is pushing for the quarantine period to be capped at a total of five days. But Whitehall sources expect this to be blocked by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, who is concerned about the risk of importing cases from abroad.
A source said that at one point during the summer, around 10 per cent of new UK cases were thought to have been brought back from overseas by holidaymakers.
‘We are keen to get people flying again when it is safe to do so, and there is particular concern about the impact of the quarantine regime on business travel,’ the source said. ‘But we are also mindful of the fact that part of the reason we are back in the situation we are in is because of cases imported over the summer.’ Foreign travel is currently banned except for work or in emergencies.
Ministers are expected to sign off the new quarantine package in the coming days in the hope that the testing regime can start to be rolled out from December 2 when Boris Johnson has pledged the current lockdown will end.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, pictured, is pushing for the quarantine period to be capped at a total of five days
It will initially be trialled for passengers on flights returning from a small number of destinations. But officials hope it can be expanded rapidly if it proves successful.
Ministers are also expected to agree a package to let the £10billion cruise industry restart. It has been in suspended animation since July when the Foreign Office issued blanket advice against all cruise ship travel following a string of outbreaks around the world.
The taskforce, set up last month, will suggest allowing domestic cruises to sail again from late January, provided operators can show they have stringent testing and infection control measures in place. Foreign cruises may resume in the following months if operators agree to take full responsibility for repatriating any passengers or crew stranded due to the virus.
Meanwhile, most of Greece has been removed from the travel corridor list. Only travellers arriving in the UK from Corfu, Crete, Rhodes, Kos and Zakynthos – also known as Zante – will avoid quarantine. But Bahrain, Cambodia, Chile, Iceland, Laos, Qatar, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United Arab Emirates will be on the corridor list from tomorrow.