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Currently, Britons arriving in the UK from certain countries not on the travel corridor list have to quarantine for 14 days or face fines if they are caught flouting the rules. The policy was put in place to help halt the transmission of coronavirus from other countries into the UK. But travel industry bosses have repeatedly called on the government to ease the restrictions for people who test negative for coronavirus.
Mr Shapps said a testing programme which was launched in Liverpool last week has sparked hope for “quarantine-free” travel in the future.
Mr Shapps is co-chairman of the government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which was set up last month to consider measures to support the travel sector.
In a speech to the annual conference of trade body the Airport Operators Association, Mr Shapps said: “I want you to know that we’ve been making very good progress on a test to release programme, to launch once we’re out of this lockdown.
“This will consist of a single test for arrivals into the UK provided by the private sector at a cost to the passenger, allowing us a much-reduced period of self-isolation.
“Beyond the lockdown, this should encourage more people to be able to book flights with confidence, knowing there is an option which allows them to shorten self-isolation if they’re going somewhere which isn’t in – or does become outside – a travel corridor.”
Mr Shapps added: “This is a highly accurate swab test that gives results in less than an hour, and doesn’t need to go to the lab.
“Ultimately, it could open the way for non-quarantine travel as well.”
Travel expert and CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency Paul Charles said the news from Mr Shapps was “encouraging”.
He said: “Very encouraging news from @grantshapps that #quarantine from high-risk zones will be reduced by at least 50 percent in December, possibly to just five days plus test.
“This will have a major impact on confidence to book and travel, and help to reignite the sector quickly.”
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However, keen travellers on Twitter quickly took to the site to air their frustrations and pointed out a “downside” to the news.
One Twitter user commented on Mr Charles’ post: “If he announces that u will see prices going up.” [sic]
Another said: “If we return from a country that had 1000 cases per 100k in the last week, it still means that we have 99 percent chance of not having the virus.
“Even five days quarantine is too much.”
Another replied: “The downside being that a typical family of four will have to add £800 on to their budget for tests. Can’t see many going for that.”
Another said: “Don’t see how. Who has five days they want to spend under house arrest and £200 to get a test done.
“No quarantine between countries with same level of risk is the only sensible way forward.”
One user said: “How easy will it be to get a test though?”
The tests will be cost around £140 according to The Daily Telegraph but will make sure the NHS is not put under more strain.
Meanwhile, industry insiders have said the test could cost up to £150.
However, some of the costs could be subsidised by airlines.
Recently, London’s Heathrow Airport launched a rapid coronavirus test service for passengers flying to Hong Kong and Italy.
The tests were saliva swabs which were done pre-departure and cost around £80.
At the moment, Britons cannot travel within the UK or abroad unless it is for an essential purpose until December 2 when England’s lockdown will be lifted.
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