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UK looks at changing airport coronavirus quarantine rules to help travel industry

October 8, 2020

Airlines have been pleading for months for testing regime that could open more destinations

The UK will look at Covid-19 testing for arriving air passengers to try to provide relief to the pandemic-battered airline industry.

The government, which has previously resisted tests, has formed a global travel taskforce to evaluate the idea and other measures to support the travel sector.

'The overall aim of the taskforce will be to consider what steps the government can take to enable the safe and sustainable recovery of international travel,' Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

Mr Shapps said Britain would co-operate with other countries to develop a global approach.

Airlines have been pleading for months for a testing regime that could open up more destinations and give passengers increased certainty about flying.

Passengers landing in the UK have to quarantine themselves for two weeks if they are arriving from a high-risk country.

But as the pandemic surges and spreads, the list of safe countries has been changing regularly.

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland maintain their own lists, adding to the complexity and leading many customers to avoid planes altogether.

London’s Heathrow airport, Manchester Airports Group, EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic Airways welcomed the development but said the taskforce must act fast.

They said testing should be implemented by early November, with people checked for the virus on day five of arriving, slashing the isolation period.

Britain has been looking at ways to reduce the 14-day quarantine period that applies to some arriving passengers.

The task force will report back by early November.

In July, Britain changed its policy from a blanket quarantine to one that established 'travel corridors' to countries with low infection rates.

But with cases on the rise in several places, the list of countries on the quarantine exemption list is dwindling, and the travel industry has warned it faces an existential crisis unless the policy is changed again.

Mr Shapps defended the current system while acknowledging the potential for collaboration with the aviation industry to minimise quarantine.

“The current measures at the border have saved lives,” Mr Shapps said.

“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.”