I recently got unpleasant comments and even personal messages after daring to suggest that the UK government needs to look at ways to allow travel safely other than quarantine. A study recently showed that countries using testing for entry were not showing any substantial increase in cases over those that use quarantine.
It would appear that I do actually know something about what I was writing about since the government has now said this morning that they wish to introduce airport testing (likely double testing) as soon as possible. What remains to be seen is how the model would work. They have also introduced regional travel corridors for islands.
UK government says it wants to introduce airport testing ASAP
Matt Hancock told LBC this morning: “We are working to try to find a way to allow for the quarantine to be reduced, but done in a way that also keeps people safe.”
He explained that one test at the border “doesn’t work”. The issue is particularly for those returning to the UK that have travelled abroad. If you think about an average 7 day holiday, you may have picked up the virus during the week, but would it show up on your return if you caught it very recently? However, the government is keen on a two-test strategy.
It is “one of the things we’d like to bring in as soon as it’s practical to do it”, Mr Hancock added, confirming: “It is something we’re working on.”
If they go for double testing they could either do a test on arrival followed by a test around 5-7 days later which would cut quarantine in half. Some travel industry experts are calling for a model with the need for a test before arrival in the UK which so many countries now require. Then one test on day 4 which effectively gives two tests a week apart. The issue with this model is how people would get a test abroad as in many places this would not be easy. In other places such as Dubai, it would be very simple since you need one to fly anyway. I must admit I do like the idea of everyone being tested before they get on a plane – when the new saliva tests become available which gives results in under 30 minutes, this could well be the way forward.
Grant Shapps also talked about this in parliament today. He said that they are working on the practicalities of a two-test strategy to cut the quarantine policy.
“For the reasons described, this could not be a pure test-on-arrival option, it would not work, but my officials are working with health experts with the aim of cutting the quarantine period without adding to infection risk or infringing our overall NHS test capacity – which also now needs to cater to schools going back and universities returning.
“The islands policy itself becomes actively immediately and I will, of course, update the House on quarantine testing in the coming weeks.”
Whichever the government chose, anything is better than the current blunt unenforced quarantine. Given the cost of PCR tests, I am guessing it is likely to be a choice of quarantine or testing which you either have to pay for in full or in part.
Regional travel corridors finally introduced, but sadly we won’t be off to the Canaries or Balearics just yet!
I am not surprised by today’s announcement by Grant Shapps that the UK would adopt regional travel corridors. The previous week’s shenanigans with both Wales and Scotland adopting different policies. This was as well as using regional travel corridors to include Greece but not some Greek Islands as well as allowing Madeira and the Azores but not Portugal. This forced his hand somewhat.
I am disappointed that it has not gone further although I accept that not all countries would be easy to assess figures for particular regions. However, in countries like Australia and the US that are huge and have separate administration of states, this still needs to be an option in my opinion. For example, there have apparently been some initial discussions about New York which has a very low rate of the virus and requires quarantine if you travel from most other states.
Grant Shapps said that the government did not have the correct level of detail to do regional quarantine but they now have a more “forensic” level of detail. He was still concerned that within mainland countries it would be too easy to travel around a country to areas with higher rates.
Instead the government will immediately introduce an islands policy to allow islands to be treated separately from the mainland of a country. There will be four requirements for the policy:
- the land must have clear defined boundaries with the country in question which pretty much means an island
- the data collected must be robust
- the island must have direct flights or transport from a non-quarantine country
- the FCO advice should aline
Mr Shapps also said that the Balearics and Canaries currently have too high a rate to add them to the travel corridors.
7 Greek Islands removed from travel corridors
From 4 am on Wednesday seven Greek islands will be removed from the English travel corridor list.
The islands are: Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos.
If you return from one of these islands you will need to quarantine for 14 days.