Stansted Airport chief welcomes quarantine tests for passengers as boost for business
Stansted Airport boss Charlie Cornish has welcomed cuts to Government quarantine rules for passengers as a "good first step to get our country flying again".
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have announced that travellers will be able to end self-isolation after five days, rather than the 14 currently required, from December 15 if they obtain a private test proving they do not have Covid-19.
Mr Cornish, chief executive of Stansted's owner Manchester Airports Group (MAG), said: "To support a strong recovery in air travel next year, consumers and businesses will need widespread access to rapid and affordable tests when they return from countries where quarantine requirements apply.
"The regime the Government has announced from December 15 is a good first step towards getting our country flying again. The ability to reduce quarantine time by more than a week will make travel easier and start to give people the confidence to book trips in the weeks ahead.
"To be world-leading, the Government must now work quickly with the aviation industry to refine the regime and introduce faster and cheaper tests, as well as innovative measures to further shorten or eliminate the need to self-isolate.
"The latest public health analysis shows that shorter quarantine periods are actually more effective, particularly when they are accompanied by rapid turnaround tests that get people their results quickly."
The Government has also announced an £8m grant for Stansted to cover its current annual business rates bill as part of a £100m support package for airports across the country.
Mr Cornish said: "Coupled with a dedicated financial support package, that is what is needed to kick-start the recovery of the aviation sector and protect as many jobs as possible. With that in mind, news of relief from business rates for airports in England – as seen elsewhere in the UK and in other sectors of the economy – is a welcome development and we look forward to hearing further information."
Under the new 'Test to Release for International Travel' strategy, passengers arriving by air, ferry or train should book their test before they travel; must complete a passenger locator form; and will still need to self-isolate for five days before taking a test – rather than taking it at their port of arrival. The tests used must be privately provided to avoid further pressure on the NHS system.
Mr Shapps said: "We have a plan in place to ensure that our route out of this pandemic is careful and balanced, allowing us to focus on what we can now do to bolster international travel while keeping the public safe.
"Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business. 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 Government has considered the evidence which demonstrates that a test after five days of self-isolation provides materially better results than just having a test on arrival, as it allows time for the virus, should it be present, to incubate, helping to reduce the risk of a false-negative result.
Mr Hancock said: "Ensuring that safe travel is possible has been a priority for the Global Travel Taskforce. This test on day five of the 14-day self-isolation period will identify positive coronavirus cases and allow those who test negative to return to work and see their loved ones while abiding by domestic coronavirus restrictions.
"This will be done at the cost of the traveller to protect the capacity of NHS Test and Trace and ensure that any UK resident who has symptoms is able to get a test."