Better late than never, but never late is better. After months of campaigning from the travel industry, including every airline and travel sector leader, the UK Government is answering calls to part ways with current 14 day quarantine requirements for many international arrivals.

The move would involve privately funded testing after arrival, cutting quarantine times significantly, but still leaving much to be desired. It’s a starting point, but it’s far from over.

UK To Drop 14 Day Quarantine

Transportation Minister Grant Shapps has announced sweeping reform to current UK travel restrictions, which mandate 14 days of strict quarantine for all travelers coming from areas not a part of the country’s ‘Travel Corridor’ list.

Initial plans, currently expected to begin in November, are said to involve five days of quarantine upon arrival, with no pre-departure testing, or arrival testing at the airport, two moves which airlines and travel leaders have pushed for unsuccessfully. Instead, passengers would privately test at a clinic nearby to their isolation location, or via post.

Other countries, including Germany, have setup robust airport testing facilities on arrival, to simplify the testing process, with no more than minutes to complete a covid-19 test upon entering the country. Heathrow plans to offer tests for £150, though it’s unclear how they may tie into current government protocols.

Recent studies of 13,000 arrivals in Canada concluded tests on arrival caught 80% of covid-19 cases entering the country, and the remaining 20% were discovered with a second test within 7 days of arrival.

According to Shapps, the private testing solutions would not impact the NHS and would allow for travel not to interfere with greater public health needs in the country. On the news, airlines began to react, including Virgin Atlantic, which offered…

“Today’s announcement represents much needed progress, but every day counts when Britain’s economy and half a million jobs that rely on aviation are at stake.

We support the Government’s decision to opt for a single-test, private sector-led, passenger-funded approach that does not compete for, nor divert, vital NHS testing resources, to reduce travel restrictions while protecting public health. But a firm commitment that a comprehensive testing regime will be implemented in November is required to boost consumer confidence, enable global travel and protect jobs. A test on five days, which the Government’s own evidence suggests would be ‘highly effective’, must be the starting point.

Trials between Heathrow and New York should take place in parallel to generate real world data for a pre-departure and on arrival testing approach, as well as regional mainland travel corridors, so that policy can quickly evolve. Removing quarantine is the only way to truly open up the skies and enable the UK’s economic recovery to take-off.”Virgin Atlantic

The UK is said to have fallen behind the curve in recent months, as many countries with even lower rates of infection move to double testing solutions to reboot wider travel, and consumer confidence along with it. Singapore is one such country which is opening travel with testing based solutions, and much of Asia is following suit. Many popular destinations, including Dubai, now require a covid-19 test prior to departure.

Current UK 14 Day Quarantine rules have unnecessarily torpedoed the UK travel industry with ever changing guidelines as to which countries require quarantine upon arrival into the UK, and which do not. The advice can change by the day, which makes travel planning impossible.

Santorini is ok one day, but requires 14 days of quarantine the next, rendering those who must work from an office unable to travel. 14 day quarantine also makes business travel all but impossible.

Science backed testing regimes do a greater job in mitigating risk associated with travel, while allowing countries to create more steadfast and dependable entry rules. Any covid-19 positive travelers would statistically be tracked and traced via mandatory testing, rather than relying on people to fulfill self isolation requirements.

Travel not only impacts airlines, hotels and tour operators, but businesses in all parts of each country, including restaurants, pubs and shops, all of which rely on visitors to stay open. Basically, every local community has a stake in rebooting travel, whether they fully realize it, or not.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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9 Comments

  1. The UK falling behind the curve isn’t a new thing Gilbert. It has been happening on many fronts, not just travel, although our dear leader will say otherwise. 😉

  2. And they don’t think passengers having to cough up £150 for a private test to reduce to 5 days quarantine will discourage them from travelling!

    Another episode of The Muppet Show from the same incompetent actors!

  3. Hi Gilbert.
    It is interesting that, even with rapidly rising cases, hospitalisations and deaths, that you feel it necessary to criticise the UK for being cautious. When can I, a Brit, visit the US? Or Australia, New Zealand, India, most South American countries, Thailand, Japan even with a test? Why has Hawaii refused to accept US travellers (intra country travel) and even now it is not really clear whether Hawaii will open or not. Certainly not to Europeans.
    The UK has one of the highest death rates in the world. And the country is now facing further imposition of restrictions of freedom of its citizens within the country.
    The UK must be cautious.
    This is not written as a travel hater. Now I should be in India, December in Thailand and January in Chile. I have already booked for San Francisco (BA) for next May. I want to travel.

    1. I’d argue that testing based programs actually create greater safety nets. It was estimated (by UK Gov) that only circa 18% of those responsible to self isolate were choosing to do so. This means 14 day quarantine actually created hardly any blanket of safety, and rather an unscientific approach to travel. Testing, ideally double testing, ensures sick travelers either 1) don’t get on the plane to begin with 2) have strict isolation practices if positive, and 3) if double tested negative, are able to reboot vital economies, without being a great risk.

      Virtually all countries agree that the vast majority of transmission is domestic, over 80% in most cases. People in pubs, friend groups getting loose, etc. I’m criticizing the government for not implementing test based solutions, because they in unison with shorter periods of isolation actually provided statistically greater safety.

  4. Ha!

    A ‘taskforce’ of the usual politicans characters who couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag!

    And ‘Virgin Atlantic’ agrees do they? They also agreed to transatlantic price fixing with BA in the 90’s and then shopped BA to get themselves off the hook for their own misdeeds! That’s the calibre of their dealings!

  5. I’m currently in Madeira, having opted for the test on arrival process, which was free, efficient, and allowed us to leave our hotel rooms within 12 hours max (8 for us). If we’d been positive, we’d have been transferred to a fully funded (is free) dedicated quarantine hotel, Inc meals for a week, then tested again.

    Madeira is partly closed down, due to the shortage of tourists, but with very few non visitor cases, and no deaths, is far safer than staying in the UK and still has plenty of attractions, bars and restaurants open.

    And warmer😁

  6. Definitely a step on the right direction, tourism is getting absolutely killed in the uk and can’t really pretend it’s surprising given that anyone wanting to visit would be stuck for 14 days strangely a lot of the countries that the uk requires to quarantine upon arrival don’t enforce the same on british travellers despite the uk being one of the worst hit places in Europe, guess they need the money *shrug*.

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