TESTING TESTING Boost for summer holidays as ministers consider 20 minute coronavirus tests at airports in bid to lose 14-day quarantine
A QUICK 20-minute test instead of a 14-day quarantine is being considered by UK ministers ahead of the summer holidays.
The new proposal hopes to allow Brits to have a holiday abroad this year without needing to self-isolate for two weeks when returning to the country.
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Airports could offer 20 minute coronavirus tests to replace the mandatory 14-day quarantine
Airports could offer 20 minute coronavirus tests to replace the mandatory 14-day quarantineCredit: AFP or licensors
Other airports around the world are already offering quick tests on international arrivals
Other airports around the world are already offering quick tests on international arrivalsCredit: Alamy
The 14-day quarantine, which was confirmed by Home Secretary Priti Patel, is to be enforced by June 8, affecting both tourists and British nationals.
However, the new test could take less than half an hour to confirm if the traveller has the virus.
It is being considered by a group of experts which includes scientists, ministers, civil servants and aviation bosses.
A Department for Transport source told the Telegraph: “What is being mooted is a mutually recognised test where a foreign businessman, say, has a test a day before flying that is accredited.”
They added that it would allow “people to travel but maintain public health”.
Other countries are already offering tests for airport arrivals to swerve the need for two-week quarantines.
Iceland will allow tourists to take a 24-hour test as soon as they land from June 15, which, if testing negative, will let them enter the country without a 14-day quarantine.
Vienna Airport charges travellers £166 to take a coronavirus test which takes up to three hours and will let them avoid the two-week quarantine if it isn’t positive.
Emirates is the first airline to introduce quick Covid-19 blood tests, which take just ten minutes, after a trial before a flight from Dubai to Tunisia.
Health secretary Matt Hancock yesterday said he was “optimistic” that foreign trips could happen from July.
He told ITV’s This Morning: “I am a little bit more optimistic than I was about, about being able to get some foreign travel back up.
“And so that is one of the things where things have gone a bit better than expected.”
The proposal of a quick test follows an open letter from more than 70 UK travel firms calling for the 14-day quarantine to be scrapped.
The letter, which includes tour operator Mr & Mrs Smith as well as luxury hotels The Ritz and Hyatt Regency, said: “The very last thing the travel industry needs is a mandatory quarantine imposed on all arriving passengers which will deter foreign visitors from coming here.”
It added that it will also “deter UK visitors from traveling abroad, and most likely cause other countries to impose reciprocal quarantine requirements on British visitors”.
France has already warned that they would enforce similar measures in response to the UK guidelines.
A spokesperson for France’s Interior Minister said: “We take note of the British government’s decision and we regret it.
“France is ready to put in place a reciprocal measure as soon as the system comes into force on the British side.”
While the open letter praised the government for handling the pandemic, they also warned that the quarantine period wasn’t enforced during the peak of the crisis, when international travel was still at high levels.
The letter continued: “Many people urged the government to impose quarantine regulations during the early phases of Covid-19.
“Instead, no action was taken and flights from infected countries were allowed to land, disgorging thousands of potentially affected passengers into the wider community.”
A Home Office spokesperson told MarketWatch, who first saw the letter, that the quarantine is the right way to prevent a “devastating second wave”.
UK airlines have already slammed the two-week isolation measures, with Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary calling it “idiotic and unimplementable.”
British Airways warned that their return to the skies in July could be delayed by the quarantine too.
Another option being considered are “air bridges” which are an agreement between two countries to let nationals travel between them without needing to quarantine for 14 days.