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Published on Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Govt's test-and-release regime won't work, says BA boss






British Airways' new boss has dismissed the government's planned new test-and-release regime to halve the quarantine for returning travellers and holidaymakers even before it is launched.



Sean Doyle told the Airlines 2050 virtual conference that it simply won't work.



Speaking at the same conference, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed this week that government ministers have agreed a single test which, he claimed, could reduce the self-isolation period for people arriving in the UK from high-risk countries down to seven days.



Mr Shapps said he was working with a new Global Travel Taskforce to work out how this could be implemented.



Currently, holidaymakers and travellers returning to the UK from most countries must self-isolate for 14 days. Only those arriving from 57 exempt countries don't need to quarantine.



Under Mr Shapps',test-and-release proposal, the quarantine cut be cut to seven days if arrivals are able to produce a negative Covid test taken on day seven.



The issue, he said, is how to develop private tests, without increasing strain on the NHS.



Private testing is already available, but tests cost an average of £140 to £150 per person and they can take up to 72 hours to deliver results, so by the time they arrive, returning holidaymakers would have already spent up to 10 days in quarantine.



Mr Shapps told Aviation 2050 that the Global Travel Taskforce, of which he is co-chair alongside Health Secretary Matt Hancock, met for the first time last Thursday.



He said they have been 'working extensively with health experts and the private testing sector' on the practicalities of a testing regime.



"And we will continue to make sure that it does not impact on NHS capacity and that's been one of the big challenges of designing such a scheme when NHS test and trace has been under enormous strain although we now have more testing capacity per head than any other country.



"In addition to this domestic 'test and release' model we are also working on schemes with partner countries to establish whether self-isolation could take place before departure.



"I know it's confusing for passengers when every nation has a different system.



"We need a global system and the UK will show leadership by developing a framework for international travel in order to provide global consistency.



"Indeed, we will consider all options that increase tourism and business travel, but do so safely and thereby help the sector recover from the pandemic."



But BA's Sean Doyle had earlier dismissed the plan, saying at Airlines 2050: "Even if that quarantine period is reduced, to say seven days, people won't travel here and the UK will get left behind."

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