Traveller quarantine is set to be more than halved from 14 days to five under a new ‘test and release’ scheme.
The relaxation of restrictions on foreign travel will see arrivals from ‘high risk’ countries allowed to leave self-isolation if they test negative for Covid-19 on the fifth day.
Fast turnaround tests at a cost of up to £150 are expected to be used to produce results in under an hour and avoid extra pressure on the NHS. Costs are expected to fall as demand rises.
The changes to quarantine regulations, reported last week by Travel Weekly, are expected by mid-December following months of travel and aviation industry lobbying. An announcement could come today (Monday) from transport secretary Grant Shapps
Ministers are also reported to be ready to agree arrangements to allow the resumption of cruises following a blanket ban imposed in July.
The government’s Global Travel Taskforce is expected to signal a restart from late January provided lines prove they have stringent testing and infection control procedures.
Foreign cruises could also resume in the following months if operators agree to take responsibility for repatriating passengers and crew if they are stranded due to an outbreak of the virus, according to the Mail on Sunday.
The taskforce is also likely to recommend pre-departure testing up to 72 hours before arrival, which could enable quarantine to be sidestepped.
Travel corridors where passengers do not have to quarantine on arrival from low risk countries will continue to operate and be reviewed on a weekly basis according to changing infection rates.
A Whitehall source told the newspaper: “We are keen to get people flying again when it is safe to do so, and the prime minister is particularly concerned about the impact we have seen on business travel.
“Cutting the quarantine time from 14 days to five has the potential to make a huge difference.”
The new quarantine measures will form part of Boris Johnson’s wider ‘Covid Winter Plan’ due to be outlined today, with England’s national lockdown replaced by a stricter three-tier regional system.
The changes are believed be based on analysis of data from more than 105,000 passengers which found that tests on the fifth day of quarantine detected between 83% and 90% of Covid cases.
The analysis of test results from passengers arriving in Canada, Iceland, France and Jersey showed tests on the fifth day were just as effective at detecting Covid as those on the seventh day, where the rate was between 84% and 90%, the Telegraph reported.