Following pressure from industry associations, trade bodies and aviation stakeholders, the UK Government has launched a new Global Travel Taskforce to consider how a testing regime for international arrivals could be implemented to boost safe travel to and from the UK. It will also look at what steps can be taken to facilitate business and tourist travel through innovative testing models and other non-testing means and more broadly, what steps can be taken to increase consumer confidence to support the recovery of international travel.
The Department for Transport and the Department of Health and Social Care have been working extensively with clinicians, health experts and the private testing sector on the practicalities of testing international arrivals.
To accelerate the work currently being done on proposals for a future testing regime, the taskforce will look at the feasibility of these initiatives based on a single test taken after a period of self-isolation. It will also explore alternative testing models, including pilots with partner countries to ascertain whether self-isolation could be undertaken pre-departure.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps conceded that, “Our understanding of the science now means we can intensify efforts to develop options for a testing regime and help reinvigorate our world-leading travel sector.” He also stated that, “This new taskforce will not only help us move towards safer, smoother international travel as we continue to battle this virus but will also support global connectivity – helping facilitate more covid secure travel whilst protecting the population from imported cases.”
The group has revealed that it will consult closely with partners from the aviation, travel, healthcare and testing sectors to implement measures to support the recovery of the travel sector.
The Airport Operators Association (AOA) has welcomed the Government’s commitment to testing as a first step, however it has also warned that a system must be implemented as quickly as possible.
“We have been talking about testing since June and many other countries around the world are already successfully using it. We must start the operation of the scheme as quickly as practicalities allow so the UK is not left behind. We believe that from a health perspective a testing regime can be far preferable to just relying on quarantine,” said Karen Dee, AOA Chief Executive. She also explained that airports will work with the Government to get a testing system up and running as quickly as possible.
She added that, “Today’s announcement must be the start of a renewed focus on our sector – it is essential that the Government bring forward the promised Aviation Recovery Package of support including business rates relief for airports in England and Wales, continuation of VAT-free sales airside, funding for the CAA and a temporary suspension of Air Passenger Duty.”
These much needed steps Dee added, will help support airports as they look to tackle the challenging winter months ahead.
“This announcement is positive and encouraging, but it is vital that the Government step up its support to protect our international connectivity,” she concluded.