According to the new system, which comes into force on December 15, people arriving from countries without quarantine exemption must still initiate prophylactic isolation, but after five days they can perform a Covid-19 test and if this is negative they will be released from quarantine.
UK Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said that the aim of the new measure is to facilitate and promote international travel and help the transport and tourism industries, particularly affected by the movement restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement Schapps 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 do to bolster international travel now, whilst keeping the public safe. And that is why from 15 December people arriving into England will be able to reduce their 14 days of self-isolation, to just 5 days by getting a Covid-19 test from a private provider.
“This reduction of self-isolation, by up to two thirds, will help give people confidence to book international trips, knowing that you can return to England and self-isolate for a shorter period of time once you have that negative test.
“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, to see loved ones once again and to drive international business. By giving people the choice to test on day 5, we’re also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of this pandemic.”
The cost of a test, which will be undertaken within the private health system can cost, on average, between £65 and £120 (€73 and €135) and the result takes between 24 to 48 hours.
For the time being this measure applies only to England, since Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have autonomy on health issues.
The organisation representing British airlines, Airlines UK, called the measure "a hugely welcome step", and described it as "a light at the end of the tunnel".
However, it continues to advocate a system in which tests are carried out by passengers before departure to avoid any type of quarantine on arrival because "it is the only way to reopen the market comprehensively," said the CEO of Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade.
“This is a hugely welcome step that will begin the process of opening up international travel and restarting UK aviation. It is a good start and by more than halving the quarantine period we should see demand tentatively return and more routes and destinations become viable once again.
“That said, a test at day 5 does not get rid of quarantine and that’s why we look forward to working with Government to move towards a pre-departure or domestic testing regime that can remove safely the need for self-isolation altogether, as quickly as possible. This is the only way we’re going to comprehensively reopen the market. But, with this announcement there is now light at the end of the tunnel not just for carriers and UK aviation but consumers looking to get away at Christmas and beyond,” said Tim Alderslade.
Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) 76th Annual General Meeting (AGM) unanimously resolved to urgently call on governments to re-open borders to travel.
The IATA is proposing systematic testing of international travellers which would permit the lifting of border restrictions and provide an alternative to current quarantine rules.
“People want and need global mobility. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Take-off measures make flying safe. But border closures, movement restrictions and quarantine measures make travel impossible for most. We must manage how we live with the virus. But that does not have to mean destroying aviation, risking millions of jobs, crippling economies and tearing apart the international social fabric. We could safely open borders today with systematic Covid-19 testing,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.