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Government commits to testing ‘to open up international travel’

The launch of a Global Travel Taskforce ‘to open up international travel and boost our business’ has been confirmed.

It will consider how a testing regime for international arrivals could be implemented to boost safe travel to and from the UK, what steps can be taken to facilitate business and leisure travel through testing and non-testing means and how to increase consumer confidence to support the recovery of international travel.

The current rules around the 14-day self-isolation policy remain in place.

The taskforce was launched in collaboration between the Department for Transport and the Department of Health and Social Care which said they have been working with clinicians, health experts and the private testing sector on the practicalities of testing international arrivals.

They said the next step is to develop an “operationalised approach” to “work at pace with industry on implementation” of testing and to “identify options to reduce the self-isolation period while protecting public health”.

The taskforce will look at the feasibility of a single test taken after a period of self-isolation, provided by the private sector and at the cost of the passenger.

It will work with medical experts to better understand when a test should be taken based on the progression of the disease and with the private sector to ensure testing for international arrivals does not impact on NHS capacity.

Alternative testing models, including pilots with partner countries to determine whether self-isolation could be undertaken pre-departure, will also be explored.

The taskforce will be jointly chaired by the secretary of state for health, Matt Hancock, and transport secretary Grant Shapps, who first made the announcement via Twitter after a series of newspapers carried the story on Wednesday morning.

In the official announcement, Shapps said: “The current measures at the border have saved lives. Our understanding of the science now means we can intensify efforts to develop options for a testing regime and help reinvigorate our world-leading travel sector.

“This new taskforce will not only help us move towards safer, smoother international travel as we continue to battle this virus but will also support global connectivity – helping facilitate more covid secure travel whilst protecting the population from imported cases.”

On Twitter, he said: “Following agreement from medical experts, we are moving ahead with the next step to reduce the travel quarantine period by launching the Global Travel Taskforce to open up international travel & boost our businesses.

“The taskforce will implement a testing regime to reduce the self-isolation period, along with a wide range of other measures to enable travel whilst keeping coronavirus rates down.”

Hancock added: “It is vital we do everything we can to control the spread of the virus and our measures at the borders are designed to help keep the country safe, by preventing imported cases of Covid-19.

“We know how these measures have a significant impact on people’s lives and on the travel and tourism industries, so we are working hard across government to explore ways to open up international travel in a safe way.”

As prevously reported, the taskforce is expected to put forward its initial recommendations next month.

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