Government’s scientific advisers say double testing could reduce quarantine period

The government’s scientific advisers suggested testing travellers on their return to the UK two months ago.

Minutes from a Sage meeting held in June, but first published today, show that advisors suggested that testing travellers twice – once on arrival at UK borders and once again between five and eight days later – could help to reduce the quarantine time from 14 to 10 days. The documents show that Sage asked Public Health England to consider the double testing policy.

The Sage document state: “Double testing of travellers significantly reduces the risk of false negatives, and could enable quarantine duration of less than 14 days.

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“The optimal days of testing are between days five and eight post exposure.”

Sage added that another way to reduce the quarantine period would be for those travelling on returning to the UK to get a test before their journey.

It comes after countless travel bosses have urged the government to implement wider testing, and as the industry continues to call for sector specific aid in light of the crisis.

Heathrow Airport said tourists were being asked to play “quarantine roulette” according to today’s The Telegraph.

Speaking to Sky News yesterday (Friday), transport secretary Grant Shapps said the government was “[keeping] a very close eye” on the science behind testing on return.

“Testing on return is something that we’ve always said we’d keep a very close eye behind the science on those things.” He said.

‘Testing on return isn’t quite as straightforward as it sounds because if you test someone who is asymptomatic, in other words they don’t think they’ve got anything but they may in fact have it on day one on their return, we’d probably only capture a very small percentage, scientists suggest perhaps only seven percent, of actual cases.

Emma Coulthurst, of holiday price comparison site TravelSupermarket, said: “These blunt changes by the UK Government to travel rules are having a devastating impact on holidaymakers and the outbound and inbound travel industry in the UK.

“Testing on return and a further negative test some days later would enable people to get back to work quicker.

“Testing is what other countries such as Germany are doing successfully. Also, a more regional approach to countries where there have been outbreaks, rather than a blanket ‘only essential travel’ approach and quarantine requirement would help balance health risks but also enable people to travel to those areas where there aren’t outbreaks.”

It comes as travellers  were given a small window of time to return from destinations including France and Malta after the countries were placed on the government’s ‘red list’ this week.

Which? travel editor Rory Boland said airlines were hiking prices as people vied to return home to beat quarantine, while some were refusing to refund or offer flexibility for those who can no longer go on holiday due to the FCO’s change in advice to advise against all but essential travel to destinations such as France and Malta.

He said: “This reinforces why major reform of the travel sector is needed to put the travelling public first – including giving the CAA the powers it needs to act swiftly and effectively against airlines playing fast and loose with the rules.”

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