Travellers arriving in England from abroad face a shorter spell in quarantine from mid-December if they test negative for coronavirus five days after their arrival, the UK government announced Tuesday.
It hopes the new rules will revive the ailing travel industry, particularly aviation, which has suffered a steep drop in ridership because of restrictions imposed to fight the pandemic.
Travellers arriving in England by air, ferry or train from December 15 will be able to end their quarantine if they test negative for Covid-19 at least five days after their arrival.
New arrivals currently have to self-isolate for 14 days.
Passengers will have to book a private screening and quarantine beforehand. Those who choose not to be tested will have to observe a two-week quarantine.
“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
“By giving people the choice to test on day five, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic.”
The UK government sets transport policy for England. The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own.
London changed course after seeing evidence that a test after five days of self-isolation “provides materially better results” than just having a test on arrival.
The new strategy is accompanied by a financial support plan for commercial airports in England.
“The aviation industry is vital to our economy –- creating jobs and driving growth,” said finance minister Rishi Sunak.
“This new package of support for airports, alongside a new testing regime for international arrivals, will help the sector take off once again as we build back better from the pandemic.”
Britain has recorded more than 55,000 deaths of people testing positive for coronavirus, the highest figure in Europe.