Aviation leaders are hoping a Covid-test system for travellers will be flexible enough to adapt as testing technology develops.
The government’s Global Travel Taskforce is due to report to the prime minister next month and a leading airline source told Travel Weekly: “We need flexibility so as things develop we can bring on new technologies quickly. Tests and technologies are evolving all the time.”
A second aviation source agreed, saying: “We want to get to a place where the system is flexible, where anything brought in could change in three months.”
The sources dismissed a Sunday Times report last weekend that the government is considering a quarantine exemption for “City dealmakers and company bosses flying into the UK”.
The newspaper reported that business secretary Alok Sharma and trade secretary Liz Truss “are sympathetic to demands for an exemption for the City”.
The aviation source said: “We’ve been told they’ve rowed back on an exemption for business people.” The source added: “We may see agreements that reduce restrictions on a state-by-state basis.”
The airline source told Travel Weekly: “We might not be sitting on the taskforce but we’re absolutely engaged with it.”
The source described a separate media report suggesting the government is considering changing the parameters for travel corridors as “speculation” and said: “Travel corridors don’t form part of the taskforce, although they need to butt up.”
Airline association Iata continues to push for rapid pre-departure Covid tests for all passengers. However, that is not the demand of aviation bodies engaged with the UK government.
The airline source said: “We are not promoting testing for travel corridors. It does not seem sensible to use valuable test capacity on passengers already able to travel.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps made clear when he addressed an Airlines 2050 summit on October 19 that “a regime based on a single test a week after arrival” has already been agreed.
He told the summit: “We’ve worked through all the problems before setting up the taskforce. Public Health England will set a quality test. It’s up to the private sector to meet that.
“I’m hopeful it will happen quickly, but I don’t want to overpromise. The testing sector has to deliver capacity.”
Pressed to confirm testing would be ready by December 1, Shapps said: “We’re talking to more than a dozen providers. As long as the capacity is there, I’m hopeful.”
But he insisted: “We can’t have travel being responsible for further outbreaks.”
This exchange has since been reported as though Shapps confirmed a December 1 start date.
Noting Shapps response was ambiguous, the aviation source told Travel Weekly: “Shapps did seem hopeful. His ambiguity is a cause not for concern but cynicism.”
The work of the taskforce is due to go to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in early November. Shapps told the Airlines 2050 Summit: “We’ll hear when it will be implemented.”
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