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UK to Slash Quarantine for International Travellers by up to Two Thirds from Mid-December

UK to Slash Quarantine for International Travellers by up to Two Thirds from Mid-December

The British government will cut the amount of time that international travellers arriving from ‘high risk’ countries have to quarantine by up to two thirds with a new “test to release” programme that is set to come into force from December 15. Rather than self-isolating for 14-days, travellers who are willing to pay roughly £120 ($160) for a test will be able to release themselves from quarantine after just five days.

“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business,” explained Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Tuesday. “By giving people the choice to test on day 5, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic.”

Photo Credit: British Airways

The travel industry, however, would much rather see travellers released from arduous quarantine restrictions by allowing passengers to take a COVID-19 test either immediately after arrival or before they even depart. A number of countries have introduced similar policies including Germany, Dubai and Hawaii.

When many countries closed down borders and imposed travel restrictions at the start of the worldwide pandemic, the UK took the unusual step of taking no action whatsoever on travellers arriving into the country.

Quarantine restrictions were only introduced back in June, initially, covering everyone entering England, before a list of ‘travel corridor’ destinations were drawn up of countries where travellers didn’t need to self-isolate on arrival.

The problem with that travel corridor list, however, was that the government would frequently remove countries at short notice and there was no way for travellers to avoid quarantine if they missed the deadline to get back home.

One recent study (which was funded by the airline industry) even claimed the supposedly risk-free 14-day quarantine policy was the least effective way to stop the importation of the novel Coronavirus because travellers would simply break the rules rather than self-isolate for two weeks.

A test after day five of quarantine was found to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 by 53 per cent, while a test after day three could reduce the risk by as much as 60 per cent. British Airways and its transatlantic partner American Airlines would much rather see a test and release program after day three of quarantine.

The government, though, say five days of quarantine will give more time for the incubation period to show up positive cases of COVID-19. Travellers who are willing to pay will need to book a test before departure from a list of approved labs. The test can be taken with an at-home test or at a testing site.

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