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Transport Secretary promises cheaper tests will get planes ‘back in the air’

24 November 2020, 09:30 | Updated: 24 November 2020, 09:53

By Asher McShane

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has told LBC that plans to have passengers pay for tests to cut the time they spend in quarantine will help Britain's aviation industry get back on its feet.

Speaking with Nick Ferrari on Call the Cabinet on LBC, Mr Shapps said: "It is the first of a series of steps that will help get our great airline industry back in the air, enable people to start travelling for business and seeing family."

Mr Shapps also defended the £120 cost of the tests, saying that he would expect the cost to come down in future.

"The private sector have indicated costs of between £65 and £120," he said.

"I think what we'll see as this comes in is those costs being driven down as more enter the market and some of these new types of tests, called lateral flow - those are the ones that give you the answers in 30 minutes - as they begin to meet the very exacting standards that have been required for these tests, I think we'll see the price drop quite quickly."

Under the new rules, which come into force from December 15, passengers who arrive from a destination not on the Government's travel corridors list will still need to enter self-isolation.

But they can reduce the 14-day period by paying for a test from a private firm after five days at a cost of £65-£120.

The travel industry welcomed the policy but described it as "long overdue" after months of lobbying ministers to change restrictions.

Results from the tests will normally be issued in 24 to 48 hours, meaning people could be released from quarantine six days after arrival.

When asked about the cost of the tests, Mr Shapps added: "What we haven't wanted to do is take away the testing capacity from the doctors, the nurses and the teachers, all of whom we need to be at work."

Chief executive of Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade, said the announcement provided "light at the end of the tunnel" for the aviation industry and people wanting to go on holiday.

He predicted demand for air travel will "tentatively return" following the decision but said a pre-departure or domestic testing regime that can completely remove the need to self-isolate is "the only way we're going to comprehensively reopen the market".

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: "It's a much-needed and long overdue step forward to helping the travel sector recover further.

Read more: Everything you need to know about the new Covid tier system

"But we still have a complex jigsaw puzzle of restrictions around the world that need tourists to have a high IQ to understand. We need to see global consistency for travel to fully take off."

This story is being updated