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Travellers and holiday-makers arriving back in England will be able to end their quarantine period with a negative coronavirus test after five days from December 15, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced.
The travel industry welcomed the new policy but described it as “long overdue”.
Under the new rules, passengers who arrive from a destination not on the Government’s travel corridors list will still need to enter self-isolation.
But they can reduce the 14-day period by paying for a test from a private firm on or after day five at a cost of £65-£120.
Results will normally be issued in 24 to 48 hours. This means people could be released from quarantine six days after arrival.
“We are naturally pleased to hear that the Government has recognised the need to help our industry and this is an encouraging step in the right direction. However further improvements to this test and release system will still need to be made in order to see passengers return to flying in far greater numbers. In the short term cheaper and quicker tests are needed and to ultimately eliminate any need for quarantine altogether.
With airlines planning to operate flights to over 30 destinations from Liverpool in the run up to Christmas, today’s announcement will make it more attractive for passengers looking to travel from here over the coming weeks.
The Government’s decision to also provide some long awaited financial support specific to our industry is welcome news too. This much needed financial assistance is vital as we look to face the challenging months ahead and hopefully see the start of what will undoubtedly be a slow recovery.”
The change does not apply to people arriving in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, who must continue to self-isolate for 14 days.
Mr Shapps 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 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.”
What Liverpool needs to know about Boris Johnston’s latest post-lockdown plans.
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“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 while abiding by domestic coronavirus restrictions.
“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.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, the industry association representing UK-registered carriers, said the announcement provided “light at the end of the tunnel” for the aviation industry and people wanting to go on holiday.
He predicted demand for air travel will “tentatively return” following the decision but said a pre-departure or domestic testing regime that can completely remove the need to self-isolate is “the only way we’re going to comprehensively reopen the market”.
“The test to release scheme in England should help to make overseas travel more attractive and manageable for both holidaymakers and business travellers.
“There is still more work to be done to get more people travelling and to support the recovery of the sector, including having a testing scheme in place for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the Government moving to a regional approach to quarantine and travel advice.”
“It’s a much-needed and long overdue step forward to helping the travel sector recover further.
“But we still have a complex jigsaw puzzle of restrictions around the world that need tourists to have a high IQ to understand. We need to see global consistency for travel to fully take off.”
The Government also announced it will introduce new financial support for English airports and ground handling firms in the New Year.
The support will cover business rates liabilities up to £8 million at each site.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “The aviation industry is vital to our economy – creating jobs and driving growth- which is why we have supported them throughout this crisis through the job retention scheme, loans and tax deferrals.
“This new package of support for airports, alongside a new testing regime for international arrivals, will help the sector take off once again as we build back better from the pandemic.”
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