The government has announced plans to work with industry on ways to safely reduce the UK’s 14-day quarantine on arrival requirement through testing.
A new Global Travel Taskforce, spanning the Department for Transport (DfT and Department of Health (DoH), has been tasked with "working with industry on how to safely reduce self-isolation period with testing".
The taskforce will also consider other measures to support the travel sector, including development of a global framework to make travelling easier.
In a joint statement, the DfT and DoH said both departments had been "working extensively with clinicians, health experts and the private testing sector" on the practicalities of testing international arrivals.
"The next step is to develop an operationalised approach," they said on Wednesday (7 October), pledging "to work at pace with industry on implementation" and "to identify options to reduce the self-isolation period while protecting public health".
The taskforce will also aim to speed up work on proposals for a future testing regime, and how this could be implemented – potentially through a single test "taken after a period of self-isolation".
Tests would have to be taken privately, with passengers footing the bill. "The taskforce will work with medical experts to better understand when a test should be taken based on the progression of the disease," said the departments.
Together, they also pledged to work with the private testing sector to ensure testing capacity for international arrivals does not impact NHS capacity.
The taskforce will also explore alternative testing models, including pilots with partner countries to establish whether self-isolation "could be undertaken pre-departure."
The taskforce will be jointly chaired by transport secretary Grant Shapps and health secretary Matt Hancock.
It will also consider other options to boost safe and sustainable tourism and business travel, "supporting the sector in its recovery from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic".
Shapps said the UK’s current quarantine measures "had saved lives", adding better understanding of Covid meant the government could "intensify efforts to develop options for a testing regime" and "help reinvigorate" the country’s "world-leading travel sector".
“This new taskforce will not only help us move towards safer, smoother international travel as we continue to battle this virus but will also support global connectivity – helping facilitate more Covid-secure travel while protecting the population from imported cases.”
Hancock added: “We know how these measures have a significant impact on people’s lives and on the travel and tourism industries, so we are working hard across government to explore ways to open up international travel in a safe way.”
Shapps and Hancock said the taskforce would "consult closely with partners from the aviation, travel, healthcare and testing sectors", as well as the UK’s devolved administrations, "to implement measures to support the recovery of the travel sector".
The taskforce is expected to put forward its initial recommendations next month, and will consider:
The current 14-day quarantine on arrival policy from non-travel corridor destinations continues to apply, both Shapps and Hancock stressed.