Covid: 'Very good progress' made on testing regime aimed at reducing quarantines for travellers

Grant Shapps, is co-chairman of the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which was set up last month to consider measures to support the sector. Credit: PA

"Very good progress" is being made on a coronavirus testing regime aimed at reducing quarantine times for travellers arriving in the UK, the transport secretary has said.

Grant Shapps said there is "hope for optimism" that the mass testing programme - as currently being trialled in Liverpool - could allow for quarantine-free travel in the future.

In the meantime, a government review is looking at how the mandatory quarantine period for arrivals to the UK from countries not on the travel corridor list could be reduced from 14 to seven days.

The aviation industry has repeatedly called for these restrictions to be eased for people who test negative for Covid-19.

Boris Johnson's spokesperson said the review is "ongoing" and refused to comment on its progress, but Mr Shapps appeared hopeful when speaking at the Airport Operators Association.

Mr Shapps, is co-chair of the government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which was set up last month to consider measures to support the sector.

Under current rules, anyone arriving to the UK from countries not on the travel corridor list, must isolate for 14 days. Credit: PA

He said: “I want you to know that we’ve been making very good progress on a test to release programme, to launch once we’re out of this lockdown.

“This will consist of a single test for arrivals into the UK provided by the private sector at a cost to the passenger, allowing us a much-reduced period of self-isolation.

“Beyond the lockdown, this should encourage more people to be able to book flights with confidence, knowing there is an option which allows them to shorten self-isolation if they’re going somewhere which isn’t in – or does become outside – a travel corridor.”

Mr Shapps said the taskforce – which is due to make its initial recommendations by the end of this month – has been “working extensively” with health experts and the private testing sector on the new regime.

He added: “We will report to the prime minister, as promised, with recommendations on how we can support the recovery of international tourism and travel, and of course increase consumer confidence.”

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon told the conference it was “inconceivable” that the government has not taken more action to limit job losses across airports, airlines and other sections of the aviation industry.

The “warm words” of Mr Shapps “need to be translated into action”, he declared.

“The government must do far more than simply watch from the sidelines,” the Labour MP said.

“Tens of thousands of jobs that could have been saved have now been lost, but it’s not too late stop further losses.

“More frankly, the Government needs to be more than just a passive observer in that process.”

The latest update on travel quarantines comes after arrivals to the UK from Denmark were banned following an outbreak of a mutated strain of coronavirus among minks.

UK nationals and residents can still return but must isolate for 14 days along with all members of their household.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “The confirmation of at least a 50% drop in quarantine time for those returning from high-risk zones is heartening news for the travel sector and anyone wanting to travel in December.

“We still believe that a five-day quarantine plus test is the solution that will boost confidence to book and travel.

“It would capture nearly 90% of potential cases and we urge the government to announce that quickly so that travel can recover swiftly.”

Listen to the ITV News Politics Podcast: