Travellers told they can pay for covid tests to cut quarantine time to five days

24 November 2020, 00:16 | Updated: 24 November 2020, 07:38

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Travellers to England can exit quarantine after five days if they pay for a test for coronavirus and it comes back negative, transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced.

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.

Travellers will be asked to self-isolate for five days before proving they are Covid-negative
Travellers will be asked to self-isolate for five days before proving they are Covid-negative. Picture: PA Images

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

Read more: Tough tiers until Spring as PM reveals post-lockdown plan

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

Mr Shapps said: "We have a plan in place to ensure that our route out of this pandemic is careful and balanced, allowing us to focus on what we can now do to bolster international travel while keeping the public safe.

"Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business. By giving people the choice to test on day five, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic."

Read more: Hospitality industry fury over tough Tiers post-lockdown

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.

Private tests can be purchased by travellers to cut their quarantine time
Private tests can be purchased by travellers to cut their quarantine time. Picture: PA Images

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."

Transport secretary Grant Shapps will be live on LBC for Nick Ferrari's Call the Cabinet at 9am on Tuesday.