Travel ‘mass testing’ may spark doom for airlines forced to ‘further wind down operations’

George Eustice discusses testing and travel

The UK Government has enhanced its restrictions for international travel in recent weeks amid growing concerns over new variants entering the country. Following on from the closure of travel corridors, a series of travel bans and the new quarantine hotel rule, “mass testing” for arrivals is now also said to be “under review”.

“Mass testing of all entrants to the #UK to be unveiled tomorrow, with testing on days two and eight after arrival,” tweeted Paul Charles, CEO of The PC Agency.

It is thought the new scheme will see travellers themselves footing the cost for all three tests, as well as any period of quarantine they may have to undertake in a hotel if arriving from a “high risk” country.

Mr Charles added: “Inbound travellers will have to pay for all three tests. Which is why there needs to be an exit route of this policy.”

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The testing rule has not yet been confirmed by the Government, though George Eustice, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said it is “under review.”

Speaking on Sky News this morning, Mr Eustice said: “I don’t think a final decision has been made on that but we do keep all things under review.”

He continued: “There is a case for doing testing during quarantine.

“We already have a provision to say they can test to release from quarantine earlier and we are obviously looking at this to see if we can strengthen these measures further.”

However, travel expert Mr Charles believes it could spark doom for airlines which have already been forced to axe and amend itineraries amid the ever-changing restrictions.

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He tweeted: “As #UKGov introduces the ‘travel triple test’, at passenger expense, for anyone entering from 15th Feb, airlines will further wind down operations from mid-Feb to end of March.

“Rishi Sunak will have to extend furlough for the travel sector due to forced shutdown.”

Though the latest testing rule is not yet confirmed, Mr Eustice has said Health Secretary Matt Hancock is in discussions about whether or not to implement the so-called “travel triple test”.

“I don’t think a decision has been made yet but I understand Matt Hancock may be looking at this further today and obviously if a decision is made he will make an announcement at that point,” he said.

“For now we have got in place the measures that we have,” he continued.

“We are constantly refining things. We do not rule out things like post-quarantine or during quarantine testing.

“We already have it for people to release from quarantine early, but I don’t want to pre-judge anything Matt Hancock might say.”

Though there has been no additional comment on how the new hotel quarantine rule will work, it is still planned to come into force on February 15.

“I know the Department for Health is working with some of the hotel operators,” said Mr Eustice.

“They are in discussion about procuring those hotel rooms.

“We have got a policy in place that from February 15, that is next Monday, people coming from those countries will have to quarantine in hotels and I am confident that we will have that provision in place.

“Following on from the closure of travel corridors, a series of travel bans and the new quarantine hotel rule, “mass testing” for arrivals is now also said to be “under review”.

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