Quarantine periods for travellers to the UK from abroad could be shortened “very soon,” in a major boost for Britain’s ailing travel industry.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps was asked about reducing quarantine and self-isolation periods by Sky News on Friday.
He replied: “We have said we’re actively working on that (reducing both the quarantine and self-isolation periods) and I’ll be saying more about the international side of that very soon.”
Shapps also told Times Radio that testing would be key in reducing quarantine periods, adding that he would announce any changes to parliament first.
Current rules across the UK mean new arrivals have to self-isolate for 14 days, significantly deterring travel. Exemptions apply for countries with lower coronavirus infection rates, known as travel “corridors.”
The travel industry has been lobbying for reforms for months, with calls for the period to be shortened or replaced with coronavirus testing.
The Airport Operators Association wrote to the prime minister last week warning airports needed "urgent" financial support and testing policies in place by the start of December.
"That our airports have weathered the greatest challenge they have ever faced without the levels of support afforded to other sectors or by other European nations has left our sector on its knees, with airports losing money at a staggering rate," said chief executive Karen Dee.
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Last month Britain’s biggest airport, Heathrow, also blamed the lack of a proper testing regime for new arrivals—replacing or limiting the need for self-isolation—for slashing its traffic forecasts. It said it had been overtaken on passenger numbers by Charles de Gaulle airport for the first time, adding that the Paris airport and its other rivals had already introduced testing regimes.
Heathrow then warned this week its passenger numbers slumped 82.4% year-on-year in October, and that November would be even worse.
The government launched the stringent quarantine measures after facing criticism for not taking action early on during the pandemic to deal with potential COVID-19 cases among new arrivals in Britain.
This month the government’s new lockdown in England means travel abroad is not permitted at all, other than for a limited set of reasons including work and education.
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