Transport secretary Grant Shapps has suggested there could be two Covid testing policies created for business and leisure travellers.
Shapps promised the Airlines 2050 conference the UK would play “a leading role” in developing a globally adopted system.
Addressing delegates on Monday (19 October), Shapps outlined plans for the UK’s “domestic test and release” strategy to shorten 14-day quarantine times with a Covid test carried out after a period of isolation.
Asked about cutting the isolation period for business travellers, the transport secretary said it was dependent on an international agreement being reached to “harmonise” different approaches in different countries – revealing he was in discussions with the US Department for Homeland Security about trialling a transatlantic system.
“We’re talking to the US and others about exactly that kind of approach where we can get some trials set up which can then become a global standard,” he said.
“That could involve a series of tests that could involve quarantine before or after flight or a combination of the both. Or ultimately, if the technology is there, no quarantine at all in exchange for daily rapid tests.
“So we are working on both versions [domestic and cross-nation]. The international version requires international cooperation so I don’t want to put all of our eggs in the basket of waiting for International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standard to be developed – we want to lead in that development.
“The domestic version, we can do that on our own. So yes, two different systems potentially in the works there.”
Asked how quickly such a system could be put in place to slash quarantine time for frequent international travellers, Shapps stressed it would be down to international agreements being put in place.
“We want to get trials in place – potentially with North America initially. If we have an international standard then that will take international cooperation and I suspect it will take longer than the domestic side.
“I’m working on this every day – I can’t predict quite how fast it will become a reality.”