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Task force launched to develop coronavirus testing system for travellers


By PA News

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Some travellers currently face quarantine on their return (Andrew Matthews/PA)

A task force to develop a coronavirus testing system for travellers arriving in the UK has been unveiled.

The Government said the group will “identify options to reduce the self-isolation period while protecting public health”.

Anyone arriving in the UK from overseas must self-isolate for 14 days unless they have travelled from an exempt destination.

The UK’s travel sector has repeatedly called for testing at airports to be introduced as a way of reducing quarantine periods for those who get a negative result.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The current measures at the border have saved lives.

“Our understanding of the science now means we can intensify efforts to develop options for a testing regime and help reinvigorate our world-leading travel sector.

“This new task force will not only help us move towards safer, smoother international travel as we continue to battle this virus but will also support global connectivity – helping facilitate more Covid-secure travel whilst protecting the population from imported cases.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “It is vital we do everything we can to control the spread of the virus and our measures at the borders are designed to help keep the country safe, by preventing imported cases of Covid-19.

“We know how these measures have a significant impact on people’s lives and on the travel and tourism industries, so we are working hard across Government to explore ways to open up international travel in a safe way.”

The Global Travel Taskforce will assess the feasibility of travellers being released from quarantine after paying a private sector firm for a single Covid-19 test following a period of self-isolation.

It will consider:

– How a testing regime for international arrivals could be implemented.

– What steps could be taken to facilitate business and tourist travel through “innovate testing models and other non-testing means”.

– How to raise consumer confidence to support the recovery of international travel.

The group will be jointly chaired by Mr Shapps and Mr Hancock, and will include collaboration between officials from departments across the Government.

It will consult with the aviation, travel, healthcare and coronavirus testing sectors, and is expected to make initial recommendations next month.

The chief executives of Heathrow Airport, Manchester Airports Group, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic said in a joint statement: “Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction by the UK Government to restart the economy and protect thousands of jobs across the country.

“We support the decision to opt for a single test, private sector-led, passenger-funded approach, that does not impact on the NHS in any way.

“But travellers need a firm commitment that a comprehensive testing regime will be implemented in early November.

“A test on day five, which the Government’s own conservative evidence said would be ‘highly effective’ and which they’re already doing in Germany, should be the starting point.

“Without a rapid move to testing, the UK will fall even further behind our competitors and the economic recovery will fail to get off the ground.”

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