Quarantine to be slashed from 14 days to five in time for Christmas holidays

Annabel Fenwick-Elliott
·3-min read
heathrow - getty
heathrow - getty

The length of time people have to quarantine upon arrival to the UK will be cut from 14 days to just five, Boris Johnson is expected to announce tomorrow.

Under the new 'test and release' scheme, due to launch early next month, travellers returning from 'high risk' countries will be free to leave self-isolation provided they test negative for Covid-19 on the fifth day.

Fast-turnaround tests will be used, paid for privately at a cost of up to £150 to avoid putting strain on the NHS, which provide results in as little as an hour.

The news is a major victory for The Telegraph's Test4Travel campaign, and a long-awaited lifeline for the industry ahead of the crucial new year bookings period.

Commenting on Sunday Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy, The PC Agency, stated: "This will be a major boost to the travel sector from December. I appreciate not everyone can quarantine for even five days but many people can and they will be able to visit family and friends again knowing a shorter quarantine is worth it. Private test results are to be speedier too, enabling faster release from quarantine. "

Travel corridors, which enable UK arrivals from low-risk countries to side-step quarantine altogether, will continue to operate; to be reviewed on a weekly basis according to changing infection rates. As it stands, there just two destinations on the travel corridor list – Gibraltar and a handful of Greek islands – that have no significant restrictions on UK arrivals, and a further 22 with limited restrictions that make holidays feasible post lockdown.

The new quarantine measures will form part of the Prime Minister's wider 'Covid Winter Plan', due to be outlined on Monday. England’s national lockdown will end on December 2, it has been confirmed, but be replaced by a new harsher three-tier system.

It has also emerged that passport makers are in talks with the Government to provide travellers with secure certificates to prove they are not carrying coronavirus, further down the line.

Earlier this month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the Government was working with other countries to set up a pre-departure testing regime that could reduce quarantine even further.

And he raised the prospect that there could be "quarantine-free" travel if the swab tests being trialled in Liverpool that give results in less than an hour could be adapted for use at airports

The proposals have been prepared by the Government's Global Travel Taskforce, chaired by Mr Shapps and Health Secretary Matt Hancock. 

Previously, it was suggested that the quarantine period be cut from 14 days to seven, but ministers have managed to convince Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty that five days is sufficient. Germany is among the nations already implementing the five-day model. 

The decision was based in part on results this month from the most comprehensive study yet of Covid tests on passengers.

The research, based on analysis of data from more than 105,000 passengers, found that tests on the fifth day of quarantine detected between 83 per cent and 90 per cent of Covid cases.

The analysis of test results from passengers arriving in Canada, Iceland, France and Jersey showed tests on the fifth day were just as effective at detecting Covid as those on the seventh day, where the rate was between 84 per cent and 90 per cent.