THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
It's been announced that from December 15, international travelers arriving in England will be given the option to buy a private Covid-19 test, with negative results allowing individuals to reduce the amount of time they need to quarantine from 14 days down to 5 days.
The new system is being referred to as "Test and Release". To use the system, passengers scheduled to arrive in England are being asked to book a Covid-19 test with a government-approved private provider before they depart. The test should take place 5 days after the individual has arrived in the UK. If the result comes back negative, the individual will not need to remain in quarantine.
Explaining the system, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that "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 now do to bolster international travel while keeping the public safe ... 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."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock elaborated on the system, saying that "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 ... 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."
The move falls short of earlier requests from the travel industry, which included provisions for testing at places of departure and arrival, including airports and ports. Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the industry body Airlines UK, responded to the announcement by saying that "A test at day five 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."
There had also been earlier hopes that a London to New York travel corridor would be established by the Holiday season, but this announcement implies that Americans planning to travel to the UK from December 15 will still need to quarantine for at least 5 days when arriving in England.