By Lina Saigol
Thinking of traveling to England for Christmas? You’ll soon be able to cut your quarantine period by more than half — but only if you pay up to £120 ($160) for a COVID test.
Under the U.K. government’s new “Test to Release” strategy, which comes into force on Dec. 15, passengers arriving from countries with high infection rates can cut their quarantine from 14 days to five, if they test negative for coronavirus on the fifth day.
Passengers who choose that option will need to book a test before travel and pay for it privately from a list of government-approved suppliers, with results usually provided in 24 to 48 hours. The tests are expected to cost between £65 and £120.
That works out at £325 to £600 ($800) for a family of five.
Those choosing not to take a test when arriving from a country not on the government’s travel corridors list must continue to follow the self-isolation requirement of two weeks.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the strategy would “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 5, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic,” Shapps said.
The news helped lift travel stocks in Europe. Shares in easyJet /zigman2/quotes/202825892/delayed UK:EZJ -0.56% rose 5.76%, British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines /zigman2/quotes/208070069/delayed UK:IAG -0.47% was up 5.23%, while Ryanair’s /zigman2/quotes/204098489/composite RYAAY +0.40% stock moved 1.61% higher in early London trading on Tuesday.
“The FTSE 250 had another good day, rising 0.9% with leisure stocks in demand including a 9% rise in TUI /zigman2/quotes/207049334/delayed UK:TUI +1.19% and a 6% rise in Carnival /zigman2/quotes/210414141/delayed UK:CCL +1.65% , with many households now hoping that foreign holidays will once again become a reality rather than a fantasy,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
Test to Release was welcomed by the travel industry, which has been fighting for survival as travel disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drag on profits.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airlines U.K., said the strategy was a “hugely welcome step that will begin the process of opening up international travel and restarting U.K. aviation.”
But he cautioned that a test at day five “does not get rid of quarantine,” and urged the government to move toward a pre-departure or domestic testing regime that can remove safely the need for self-isolation altogether, as quickly as possible.
“This is the only way we’re going to comprehensively reopen the market. But, with this announcement there is now light at the end of the tunnel not just for carriers and U.K. aviation but consumers looking to get away at Christmas and beyond.”
Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association said it is in the final development phase of a digital health pass that will support the safe reopening of borders.