The government’s Global Travel Taskforce was due to submit recommendations to the prime minister on a Covid test regime for travellers this week, with industry leaders targeting the end of lockdown as the start date.
Aviation sources suggested the lockdown “obviously caught the Department for Transport on the hop”, but one said: “The taskforce is still due to report this week.
“The government needs to use this period so a test regime is ready for when lockdown ends, whether that is December 2 or there is an extension – even if it’s a pilot scheme. Aviation needs to get off the ground.
“There is confidence the private testing sector will be able to meet demand. Passenger numbers are likely to be low at the restart, so it should be conceivable to bring in testing for all passengers having to quarantine, but a trial would be a way out for the government.”
An airline source said: “The travel corridors have not been removed because of lockdown and December 2 gives a date to work towards, although the lockdown might be extended.
“It will be a test and release scheme. The shorter the time before release from quarantine the better.”
The source added: “It’s still a significant challenge. There could be complexity with the implementation.”
A review of Covid tests on travellers internationally suggested ‘test and release’ after five days could be up to 90% effective. The report by consultancy firms Oxera and Edge Health was commissioned by airlines and industry bodies. It followed an Oxera-Edge Health report in October that suggested Public Health England modelling on testing is “flawed”.
The latest study examined traveller testing in several countries including France and Iceland. However, the government has indicated it has already examined the results of these overseas testing regimes.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps told Parliament on September 7: “The Iceland example is interesting. Countries have been doing day-zero testing and privately concede it does not provide the answers.
“A test later, whether that is five days, seven days or eight days, is a more probable solution.”
In other developments, Cyprus was removed from the travel corridors list from Sunday and the Canary Islands government approved a decree requiring visitors to provide negative Covid tests taken within 72 hours of arrival, accepting either PCR or antigen tests.