People arriving in England from high-risk countries will be able to cut their quarantine period from 15 December by taking a Covid test on day five.
The government announced today that private tests will be available for those arriving from countries not on the government’s travel corridor list.
This includes most European countries as well many long-haul destinations where Covid rates are particularly high.
Anyone who tests negative after five days will be able to end their quarantine early. Those who opt not to take the test or who test positive will have to quarantine for the full 14 days.
The government will publish a list of its approved test centres where passengers can book a private test at their own expense. Travellers are not allowed to book a free NHS test.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said passengers should book their test in advance of their arrival into the UK and must complete a passenger locator form. Tests will not be available at ports or airports on arrival, he said.
“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business,” said Mr Shapps.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This test on day five of the 14-day self-solation period will identify positive coronavirus cases and allow those who test negative to return to work and see their loved ones while abiding by domestic coronavirus restrictions.
“This will be done at the cost of the traveller to protect the capacity of NHS Test and Trace and ensure that any UK resident who has symptoms is able to get a test.”
However, the consumer body Which? pointed out that the Foreign Office is still advising against all non-essential travel to destinations not on the government’s travel corridor list.
Which? Travel Editor Rory Boland said: “This risks causing confusion as to whether travel to these countries is being encouraged or not. People travelling to these countries will find their travel insurance is invalidated, and may risk losing significant sums of money if tour operators interpret this as a green light to resume holidays despite warnings remaining in place, so the government must ensure it coordinates its approach to opening up international travel.”