Transport secretary Grant Shapps has hinted the government is planning to start using Covid testing to reduce the current 14-day quarantine requirement for arrivals.
However, speaking at the Conservative Party conference this week, Shapps suggested the scheme would not involve airport testing, and would instead follow a period of self-isolation.
He reiterated foreign secretary Dominic Raab’s assertion last month that airport testing would catch only a fraction of Covid cases owing to how frequently the infection can be asymptomatic.
"We have to be smarter than that," said Shapps. "The way to do that is to still have a period of quarantine, but also test and be able to release people."
Shapps also suggested any testing to reduce the current 14-day self-isolation on requirement arrival, which applies to a number of top holiday destinations, would have to be done privately at travellers’ discretion and expense, with no NHS capacity made available.
The Guardian reports Shapps and/or health secretary Matt Hancock will comment further on testing later this week. Shapps’ comments come after chief secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Barclay, also intimated there would be movement on testing imminently.
A Department for Transport spokesperson told The Guardian said: “Work is ongoing with clinicians and health experts on the practicalities of using testing to reduce the self-isolation period for international arrivals.
"The secretary of state has made clear there will be an announcement on this shortly.”
The travel sector has long been calling for a two-test regime, one upon arrival at the airport, followed by a second confirmatory test several days later to cut quarantine by around a week if they test negative.
Another plan that has been suggested is to test people on departure, followed by a similar confirmatory test.