A “test and release” system to reduce isolation after arriving into the UK could be in place by December, transport secretary Grant Shapps has hinted.
Shapps said ministers had agreed a regime comprising “a single test, provided by the private sector and at the cost to the passenger after a period of self-isolation”.
Addressing the Airlines 2050 conference on Monday (19 October) he said “a lot of aspects” surrounding the government’s testing policy had already decided prior to the creation of the Global Travel Taskforce and the group would now go about implementing its strategy.
“I’ve heard a lot of people saying ‘why has it taken so long?’. The answer is simply this – we weren’t sitting on our backsides doing nothing. What we were actually doing was defining a lot of the [scientific] detail,” Shapps stressed.
“We have already worked incredibly fast in the 10 days since [the taskforce] was been set up. We’re talking to vast parts of the testing industry.”
He explained that Public Health England “will set the quality standard for the test” with the private testing industry then tasked with creating the test.
Asked if the system could be put in place by 1 December, Shapps said: “I’m hopeful this will happen very quickly. It will now depend on the [testing] industry’s ability to provide it. I don’t want to overpromise about something that’s not in my hands directly.
“This will now be in the hands of the private sector to make sure sufficient tests are available – we’ve said from the start this cannot impact on NHS testing capacity.
“But yes [it could be in use by 1 December], with the simple proviso that the testing capacity is there in the private sector to do it – they tell us it is – but I’m extremely hopeful.”
Shapps also revealed that as well as moving towards a domestic testing model, the UK is “working on schemes with partner countries” to establish whether testing and self-isolation could take place before departure.
“It’s confusing for passengers when every nation has a different scheme in place – we need a global system and the UK will show leadership for developing a framework for international travel to provide global consistency,” he said.