Airlines say the introduction of pre-departure testing should be temporary and have urged the government to ease the restrictions when the vaccine is rolled out further.
The government confirmed this morning that new pre-departure Covid-19 testing rules on arrivals into England will be imposed from 4am on Friday, January 15.
Measures are in addition to existing quarantine rules, which require arrivals to self-isolate for 10 days – but which can be reduced if they provide a negative result from a test taken on the fifth day after arrival.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, the industry association representing UK-registered carriers such as BA, easyJet, Jet2.com, Ryanair, Tui Airways and Virgin Atlantic, acknowledged that the aviation sector had called for pre departure testing.
But he pointed out they wanted it to be introduced as a means to replace or reduce quarantine – rather than as a bolt-on restriction.
He said: “This is a national health emergency and ministers need to act to keep the country safe. It is true that much of the sector has been lobbying for pre-departure testing – but this was always predicated on the government removing or reducing the quarantine period at the same time. Now we have both quarantine and pre-departure testing. That’s why this new policy needs to be a time-limited, emergency measure only, in place not a second longer than necessary, and with a proper review mechanism once lockdown comes to an end. We cannot afford for this to be baked in over the whole Summer.
Alderslade added: “The focus must be on returning travel to normal as quickly as possible and removing the need to quarantine or take a test as the UK population is vaccinated. Ideally, as the vaccination roll-out gathers pace and the most at-risk parts of the country are inoculated, we can start to see the economy, and travel, open up, which would enable the sector to have what will be a critical summer season for aviation.”
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