Passengers jetting into the UK from high coronavirus risk areas are to avoid having to self-isolate for a 14-day period – a rule which has decimated large parts of the aviation industry. Ministers are preparing to introduce a “test and release” scheme where arrivals will be tested for the virus five days after entering the country.
Under the proposed scheme an individual will be immediately released from quarantine if they record a negative COVID-19 result on the fifth day.
A Whitehall source told the Daily Mail: “We are keen to get people flying again when it is safe to do so, and the Prime Minister is particularly concerned about the impact we have seen on business travel.
“Cutting the quarantine time from 14 days to five has the potential to make a huge difference.”
The system will use rapid one-hour COVID-19 tests at the expense of passengers in order to reduce strain on NHS resources.
It comes as the UK’s largest airports and travel firms step-up their coronavirus plans.
London Heathrow became the first UK airport to offer coronavirus testing last month.
Earlier this week, British Airways announced it will begin a voluntary testing programme of passengers in a bid to demonstrate a test 72 hours before departure is “robust” enough to replace the need for any quarantine period.
Later this month, Gatwick Airport will offer its passenger a coronavirus swab test, with results available the next day.
Its testing facility opens on November 30 in the South Terminal long-stay car park.
Passengers and airport employees will be charged £60 each, while the cost to the general public will be £99.
The Government had attempted to get the aviation industry moving again over the vital summer season by creating a so-called air-bridge with other countries.
This enabled passengers to travel to low-risk countries and avoid quarantining when returning to the UK.
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He said: “Our industry has been decimated by the pandemic and, while we welcome the anticipated test and release scheme from the Government, we want to see an internationally agreed pre-departure testing regime, based on existing risk criteria, to replace the current uncertainty of quarantine and patchwork of testing approaches which currently exists across Europe.
“A truly international approach would safely open up most of the UK’s travel routes abroad, while also helping to reduce transmission of the virus.”