Travel industry group ABTA called for urgent government action to save jobs, including a new region-by-region approach to quarantine rules, while Airlines UK has already welcomed a pre-travel testing system.
The UK will pioneer a system of pre-travel testing for COVID-19 and self-isolation – but has rejected tests on arrival at British airports.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also said a “test and release” system could cut the 14-day quarantine for returning holidaymakers and visitors to the UK to a week or less for those who test negative after arrival.
“We’re also proposing an internationally recognised system, in which Britain would be a trailblazer,” Shapps added, “when tests and isolation take place prior to travel and after travel and would require no quarantine.”
But the minister restated the government’s opposition to testing at airports, as called for by British airline industry group Airlines UK in a letter to Prime Minster Boris Johnsonn last month, on the basis that it would only identify a small fraction of disease carriers.
ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer called Shapp’s speech “very retrospective” and called for a travel equivalent of the UK’s new three-tier lockdown regime to replace the current system of national quarantine restrictions and travel bans.
Shapps said the government was “working on schemes with partners and countries to establish whether self isolation could take place before departure.”
Other countries including France, Germany, Russia and Portugal already require passengers to show a negative pre-flight coronavirus test result on arrival, or allow them to skip quarantine if they have one. Guatemala in Central America now requires a negative test before departure, having previously closed its borders entirely.
Last week Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade cautiously welcomed news that the government was mooting a pre-travel testing regime.
“Aviation is at a critical juncture and we have no time to lose, and we urge the Prime Minister to move quickly to get testing off the ground no later than the end of November so Britain does not lose further ground with its closest rivals.”