The government is moving towards a Covid-test regime for travel that will halve arrivals’ 14-day quarantine from non-corridor destinations.
The Global Travel Taskforce is poised to make recommendations on testing to the prime minister and is expected to recommend a Covid test five days after arrival if travellers choose to pay, with release from self-isolation after seven days if they test negative.
This would satisfy the industry’s demand for testing after five days and the government’s wish for self-isolation not to be reduced below seven days.
It is understood the government and taskforce have decided against allowing rapid Covid tests on travellers for the time being, permitting only PCR tests, which require lab analysis.
Where the tests will be conducted – whether at airports, at home or other sites – remains undecided.
A senior industry source said: “All the signals suggest it will be five days [before a test]. But they’ve not signed off rapid testing so we’re looking at seven days [in quarantine].
“It’s not ideal. Anything more than five days won’t push the needle [of demand] very far. Nobody wants to spend a week in self-isolation.
“If you plan a long weekend in New York, it’s not going to happen.
“We’ll welcome the taskforce announcement. We want to hit the ground running. But a lot of work needs to be done putting infrastructure in place and it depends when we get sign-off from the PM.
“Every government department has an interest in this and sign-off can be slow. It’s going to be challenging.”
Reaching a decision could be complicated by the crisis at Number 10, with the departure of senior aides last week and the requirement for Boris Johnson to self-isolate.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said tests must be provided privately and paid for by passengers, with PCR tests costing £120-£150 each.
The industry is urging the government to introduce testing from the end of Engand’s lockdown, due on December 2. However, reports of taskforce negotiations with private test suppliers suggest the government wants testing capacity available from mid-December to handle 50,000 travellers a day.
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