Passengers arriving into England will be able to reduce mandatory self-isolation by at least a week, as the government launches its new strategy for testing international arrivals. Travellers who arrive in England from countries with high infection rates will be able to pay for a test to shorten quarantine.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has today (24 November 2020) announced that from 15 December 2020, passengers arriving into England from countries not featured on the government’s travel corridor list will have the option to take a test after 5 days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing them from the need to isolate.
The move will give passengers the confidence to book international trips in the knowledge that they can return home and isolate for a shorter period if they have received a negative test. With those opting in to the scheme having to book and pay for a coronavirus (COVID-19) test from a private provider on the GOV.UK list, we are ensuring the NHS Test and Trace testing capacity is protected.
Under the ‘Test to release for international travel’ strategy, passengers arriving into England by plane, ferry or train should book their test before they travel; must complete a passenger locator form; and will still need to quarantine for 5 days before taking a test – rather than taking it at their port of arrival.
The ‘Test to Release’ scheme is announced as the government introduces new financial support for English airports and ground handlers serving them. This support, which will shore up jobs and reinforce local economies, will be available to commercial airports in England. The support will address fixed costs and be equivalent to the business rates liabilities of each business, capped at up to £8 million per site, and subject to certain conditions. This scheme will open in the new year.
The government has considered the evidence which demonstrates that a test after 5 days of self-isolation provides materially better results than just having a test on arrival, as it allows time for the virus, should it be present, to incubate, helping reduce the risk of a false negative result.
Passengers will be able to book a test from a provider on a GOV.UK list before arriving in England. If they choose to book a test, they will need to state this on their passenger locator form prior to arriving and then go straight into self-isolation at home as usual. If they choose to opt in after arrival, they will need to resubmit their passenger locator form.
They can then take a test on or after day 5 of the isolation period either at home or at a private provider’s testing site, and on receipt of a negative result, can immediately finish self-isolating and return to following domestic rules.