Could airport coronavirus testing slash quarantine time? 

Thursdays have come to be dreaded by anyone with cross-border travel plans as they face a kind of 'quarantine roulette'.  It is the day the Department for Transport reviews quarantine rules.

Once upon a time, those who were travelling might have spent their time looking at weather forecasts. Now, many have their heads buried in epidemiological charts showing coronavirus infection rates.

All travel is now about balancing risk against reward and quarantine is used as the UK’s main tool.

  • ITV News correspondent Chris Choi gets tested at Jersey Airport

One airport in the British Isles has a different solution - which can shrink or even eradicate self-isolation.

At Jersey Airport, testing is combined with risk assessments of areas passengers have visited. It means that travellers from parts of France, Jamaica, Madeira and the Canaries do not have to quarantine here, as they would need to if arriving in the UK.

A passenger arriving at Heathrow Airport. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

I experienced an airport coronavirus test myself. The system at Jersey airport is efficient, brisk and friendly. I was dreading the throat and nostril swab, having heard that it is “uncomfortable”. I found it to be painless, quick and for me, personally, it was only very minimally a discomfort.

The test itself takes only minutes and the entire process of queuing for an individual test cubicle may add half an hour to your time at the airport.

I spoke to fellow passengers who felt the system was smooth and would favour it being used at UK airports to help reduce quarantine times.

Around 30 countries offer airport Covid-19 tests, including Iceland where airport swabbing followed by a second test can cut quarantine from 14 to five days.

In Germany, airport test results can cut self-isolation to three days. Britain’s biggest airport, Heathrow, is proposing the same approach as Jersey and already has a test facility capable of 13,000 swabs a day.

Those holidaying abroad risk having to quarantine for 14 days once they return to the UK. Credit: AP

So far, the UK authorities are not convinced and PM Boris Johnson has said airport Covid-19 testing can give a “false sense of security”.

Some experts say quarantine can never be eliminated for travel from high-risk areas, because two separate coronavirus tests several days apart are needed for accuracy.

The tourism and aviation industries say cutting quarantine time from weeks to days could be achieved.Testing at the airport has helped Jersey reopen tourism - accounting for almost 10% of its economy. Many in the UK are now looking to what this island has done and hope it can lead a way out of quarantine.