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Published on Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Shorter quarantine still a 'significant deterrent to travel', says Virgin

Virgin Atlantic has given a cautious welcome to the government's test to release scheme, but says a five-day quarantine will still put people off travelling, particularly those going away on business.

CEO Shai Weiss said: "The introduction of air passenger testing on day five is a vital first step to reopening the skies in the run up to Christmas.

"However a five day quarantine is likely to prove a significant deterrent for travellers, especially those on business.

"The only way to fully reopen vital trading and travel links, support the UK's economic recovery and protect more than 500,000 jobs supported by aviation, is to move to a robust pre-departure testing regime to safely replace quarantine as soon as possible.

"Moving to a pre-departure regime, supported by latest independent evidence, would be twice as effective as quarantine.

"Passengers should be able to take a test from up to 72 hours before departure, including a rapid test at the airport on the day of departure.

"Valid tests should include PCR, Rapid Point of Care LAMP and lateral flow technologies used by government in other settings, with no diversion from NHS testing capacity.

"We call on the Government to follow the evidence, support industry trials, and lead the way in allowing free movement of people and goods to resume.

"We hope that testing will also lead the way for US borders to open to UK travellers."

Virgin said the effect of reducing quarantine on the industry's recovery does not correlate to evidence and it says the effectiveness of testing has been underestimated by the UK government. It adds the perceived risk of prevalence and transmission through air travel is hugely overstated.

The airline points to latest analysis from Oxera/Edge Health, which shows that any form of testing would be more effective than a 14-day quarantine.

Airlines UK Chief Executive Tim Alderslade said: "A test at day five does not get rid of quarantine and that's why we look forward to working with Government to move towards 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."

By Lisa James,  Deputy Editor (UK)


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