Government plans new 'test and release' scheme for air travel


Transport secretary Grant Shapps has launched a Global Travel Taskforce to implement a new 'test and release' regime to reduce the self-isolation period for those returning from abroad.

The plans would be based on a single test, provided by the private sector and paid for by passengers, for international arrivals a week after arrival.

The current self-isolation period is 14 days after arriving from a non-exempt country. Private testing for COVID can run to between £100 and £300 with results turned around within a day or two.

The NHS aims to return test results within 48 hours of a swab being taken, or within 72 hours for a home test.

In a speech to senior airline leaders Mr Shapps said the Taskforce, launched last week and chaired by himself and health secretary Matt Hancock, was working on the new testing plans and possible international frameworks.


'We have been working extensively with health experts and the private testing sector on the practicalities of such a [testing] regime,' he said.

One of the key challenges is making sure it does not impact NHS test and trace capacity, which 'has been under enormous strain' Mr Shapps said.

He also revealed that the Government is working with partner countries to establish an international travel framework, including potential self-isolation schemes before passengers depart.

'I know it's confusing for passengers when every nation has a different system. We need a global system and the UK will show leadership by developing a framework for international travel in order to provide global consistency,' he said.

Mr Shapps pledged an Aviation Recovery Plan for later this autumn, setting out more measures to boost air travel.

He accepted that it had been a devastating year for the industry. The £1.8bn the Government has allocated to aviation through the COVID Corporate Financing accounts or around 11% of total national funding under that programme, he said.

Trying to strike an upbeat note about the future Mr Shapps reminded the industry of the Government's commitment to decarbonisation and investment into zero carbon flights to help make the industry more sustainable.

This funding includes a £300m joint investment between Government and industry under the Future Flight Challenge to fund electric plane innovation.

Nearly £2bn is also being put into aviation research and technology through the Aerospace Technology Institute Programme. The cash will support the 'Fresson Project to make electrically powered commercial flights a reality in the UK within two years'.

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