Holiday blow as airport Covid testing ‘unlikely until next month’ with two week quarantine to remain in place

HOPES for the 14-day quarantine restrictions enforced by the government to be reduced to as few as four days have been quashed following a delay to the airport coronavirus testing plans.

It was initially thought that testing would be given the go-ahead in the next few days, with London Heathrow already set up with coronavirus testing facilities.

Plans for airport testing, despite UK airports being ready, are unlikely to happen until at least next month

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Plans for airport testing, despite UK airports being ready, are unlikely to happen until at least next monthCredit: PA:Press Association

However, according to the Guardian, the start of testing isn’t to be announced this week, and instead the government are to launch a taskforce to look into the new measures.

It is thought to be led by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, with new measures unlikely to be implemented until mid-November at the earliest.Chief medical officer Chris Whitty is thought to have opposed full-scale airport testing this week, backing a small trial instead.

The aviation and travel industry have been hoping for the new testing procedures to be brought into place to help the industry recover, which has seen holiday bookings plummet due to the two-week isolation period.

Transport officials are understood to favour the German model of testing to cut 14-day self-isolation by making travellers arriving in the UK have a negative Covid certificate taken from a test 72 hours before they travel.

Passengers then quarantine for four days after arrival and take a second test on the fifth day. If that also is negative, quarantine ends.

Travellers will pay for tests but tour operators plan to include the cost into trips.

Brits will still have to quarantine for two weeks - the new plans could reduce this to just four days.

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Brits will still have to quarantine for two weeks – the new plans could reduce this to just four days.Credit: PA:Press Association

New coronavirus testing measures hope to open up routes between the UK and the US again, with UK airports ready to use a 30-minute Covid-19 spit tests in departure lounges, wanting to trial them as soon as possible on New York routes.

Transport chiefs want passengers tested at check-in using ‘LAMP’ spit tests, which are also being trialled by the NHS, and are hopeful of getting sign off from the US state Department to relax the American travel ban.

But doomsday doc Chris Whitty has hamstrung launch full scale airport testing this week, only backing a small trial.

A series of smaller experimental pilots have been given the green light, but they stop well short of a national roll out.

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss said an expected Government announcement on coronavirus testing for international travellers was a “step in the right direction”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday: “We are suggesting testing pre-departure as the way to go to free up the need for this quarantine and get passengers moving freely.”

“We welcome this potential news from the Government but further swift action is required if we are to save the 500,000 jobs which rely on travel and aviation in the United Kingdom.

“And of course our economy needs to get going and the only way it can take off is for the free movement of goods and people between countries.”

London Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye, previously hoped testing trials would start on passengers to start by mid-October.

The airport boss is hoping that the tests, which cost £150 for each passenger, will allow a huge increase in the number of travellers able to fly on holiday next summer. 

Mr Holland-Kaye told Travel Weekly: “We can start testing at some scale in the next few months. I would love to have a New York-London pilot up and running by Thanksgiving [November 26]. That seems entirely feasible.”

“If we get good results, there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to extend it. It’s possible that in the first or second quarter of next year, we see ‘rapid point of care’ tests become more normal.”

A Heathrow Airport spokesperson said: “We continue to work with the Government to ascertain how testing can help negate the need to quarantine for 14 days.

“We are hopeful that more concrete progress will be made in the coming weeks which will safeguard public health, whilst kickstarting the economic recovery.”

There are currently just 10 countries left open to Brits where you don’t have to quarantine either on arrival or back in the UK.

There are even less destinations where there are no entry restrictions at all, such as negative coronavirus tests.

Coronavirus testing programme at Heathrow Airport could enable passengers from certain countries to exit the mandatory 14-day quarantine period early

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