England is drastically reducing its quarantine period for people arriving from most destinations in a move that will potentially throw open the doors for British people wanting to take foreign vacations.
As of December 15, travelers arriving into England will have to self-isolate just five days instead of the current 14 under a new testing strategy announced by the UK government.
Under the new rules, all international arrivals from destinations absent from England’s travel corridor list will have the option to take a Covid-19 test after being in quarantine for the shorter period.
Those who receive a negative result will be permitted to refrain from self-isolating, but must continue to follow domestic Covid-19 rules.
The “test and release” scheme requires passengers arriving in England by plane, ferry or train to book and pay for the test themselves. It’s unclear whether the scheme will eventually cover the rest of the UK.
“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business,” says UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
“By giving people the choice to test on day five, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic.”
The UK’s mandatory two-week quarantine came into effect on June 8 and was heavily been criticized by many in the travel sector, who saw it as an obstacle to both tourism at home and for British people wanting to take a break overseas.
These rules were subsequently relaxed for those arriving in England from approved destinations, but this list changes weekly and travelers from countries that aren’t considered “green” have been required to keep to the two-week quarantine.
Test and release
Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency and former member of the Quash Quarantine campaign group, which earlier tried to pressure the UK government into lifting blanket restrictions on all UK arrivals, welcomes the new scheme.
“It’s a much-needed, and long overdue, step forward to helping the travel sector recover further,” Charles tells CNN Travel.
“There are many people who are able to quarantine for just five days, and pay for private tests, in order to travel overseas and see family and friends again.”
However, he goes on to stress that greater “international consistency” with regards to travel rules and restrictions is needed in order to help restore travelers’ confidence.
“We still have a complex jigsaw puzzle of restrictions globally that mean tourists almost need a super-high IQ to understand,” he adds.
“We need to see international consistency for travel to fully take off.”
The “test and release” scheme requires travelers to book their test before they travel and must also complete a passenger locator form.
Outbound travel from England is currently banned due to a national lockdown, which is due to come to an end on December 2.
The latest quarantine shake up came as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that it’s one step closer to rolling out a digital health pass that aims to support the safe reopening of borders by verifying the movement of “necessary testing or vaccine information” in order to allow for international travel without quarantine measures.
The first cross-border IATA Travel Pass is scheduled to launch early next year.