Goodbye quarantine?

By GENN

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UK flag carrier BA is to start a voluntary testing regime for passengers travelling to the United Kingdom from three American airports.

American Airlines is also taking part in the scheme where both carriers hope to persuade governments that testing passengers on arrival will remove the need for mandatory self-isolation. British Airways in particular hopes arrangements such as on arrival testing will convince the US State Department to lift its ban on UK nationals entering the country.

The trial is due to start in the final week of November and will be free to eligible passengers travelling between Dallas, Los Angeles and New York to London. Participating passengers will be tested three days before their departure, as well as prior to boarding their flight and upon arrival at Heathrow Airport.

GENN has strongly argued in favour of airport testing regimes as seen in key hubs such Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, with former UK ministers echoing our Autumn report’s recommendations on the matter.

British Airways CEO Sean Doyle believes that having such a testing formula will provide ‘people certainty from which they can plan’. Doyle is confident that testing 72 hours prior to departure would be the key to making quarantine unnecessary.

Early last month, the UK’s Department for Transport set up a taskforce to examine how airport testing could reduce the mandatory quarantine period for incoming arrivals in the UK. It is still the UK Government’s view that a period of isolation for a number of days will remain necessary, irrespective of the nature of the testing regime adopted.

A Department for Transport spokesperson told the BBC: ‘The government’s Global Travel Taskforce is working at pace, with clinicians, devolved administrations and the travel industry to develop measures as quickly as possible to protect air connectivity and consider how testing could be used to reduce the self-isolation period’.

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