LONDON (AP) — Just in time for holiday travelers, England is cutting the two-week quarantine facing people arriving from regions not on Britain’s coronavirus safe list, reducing it to as little as five days if they test negative for COVID-19.
The change to the quarantine rules, which was announced Tuesday and takes effect on Dec. 15, has been long-awaited by the travel industry, one of the worst-hit sectors during the pandemic. The change will bring the rules governing quarantines in England more in line with other European countries, including Germany.
Under the new rules, passengers can reduce the 14-day quarantine period by paying for a test from a private firm on or after Day 5 of their arrival at a potential cost of around 100 pounds ($133). Results normally take up to 48 hours but sometimes can come the same day.
The change does not apply to people arriving from other parts of the United Kingdom. Travelers from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales must continue to self-isolate for 14 days.
“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said. “By giving people the choice to test on Day 5, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic.”
Since travel was permitted again after the spring lockdown, British tourists have faced an uncertain situation as they leave the country, since the government has been taking countries off its safe list at very short notice. Britain’s travel advice to the two most-visited countries, Spain and France, has changed at short notice, forcing many travelers to cut their vacations short and quickly return to the U.K. to avoid mandatory quarantines.
As well as throwing into turmoil the vacation plans of many British families, the government’s sudden changes have rocked the travel industry.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the industry association Airlines U.K., said the announcement on a shorter quarantine period provided “light at the end of the tunnel” for the aviation industry and people wanting to go on holiday.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of the travel trade group Abta, said the new testing scheme should make overseas travel “more attractive and manageable for both holidaymakers and business travelers.”
The government also announced new financial support for English airports and ground handling firms beginning in 2021.
“This new package of support for airports, alongside a new testing regime for international arrivals, will help the sector take off once again as we build back better from the pandemic,” said Treasury chief Rishi Sunak.