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Travel firms and airlines on edge as UK to announce quarantine rule change 'very soon'

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2-min read
Passengers arrive at Gatwick Airport, following an announcement on Saturday that holidaymakers who had not returned from Spain and its islands by midnight would be forced to quarantine for 14 days after Covid-19 second wave fears saw the European country struck off the UK's safe list. The decision was made after Spain recorded more than 900 fresh daily Covid-19 cases for two days running.
A travel quarantine policy could be reformed Photo: PA

Quarantine periods for travellers to the UK from abroad could be shortened “very soon,” in a major boost for Britain’s ailing travel industry.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps was asked about reducing quarantine and self-isolation periods by Sky News on Friday.

He replied: “We have said we’re actively working on that (reducing both the quarantine and self-isolation periods) and I’ll be saying more about the international side of that very soon.”

Shapps also told Times Radio that testing would be key in reducing quarantine periods, adding that he would announce any changes to parliament first.

READ MORE: Heathrow passenger numbers slump 82% as chiefs warn November will be worse

Current rules across the UK mean new arrivals have to self-isolate for 14 days, significantly deterring travel. Exemptions apply for countries with lower coronavirus infection rates, known as travel “corridors.”

The travel industry has been lobbying for reforms for months, with calls for the period to be shortened or replaced with coronavirus testing.

The Airport Operators Association wrote to the prime minister last week warning airports needed "urgent" financial support and testing policies in place by the start of December.

"That our airports have weathered the greatest challenge they have ever faced without the levels of support afforded to other sectors or by other European nations has left our sector on its knees, with airports losing money at a staggering rate," said chief executive Karen Dee.

Watch: Top PM advisor Dominic Cummings to quit by new year

READ MORE: Rolls-Royce sells 94% of new shares as it raises £2bn to survive crisis

Last month Britain’s biggest airport, Heathrow, also blamed the lack of a proper testing regime for new arrivals—replacing or limiting the need for self-isolation—for slashing its traffic forecasts. It said it had been overtaken on passenger numbers by Charles de Gaulle airport for the first time, adding that the Paris airport and its other rivals had already introduced testing regimes.

Heathrow then warned this week its passenger numbers slumped 82.4% year-on-year in October, and that November would be even worse.

The government launched the stringent quarantine measures after facing criticism for not taking action early on during the pandemic to deal with potential COVID-19 cases among new arrivals in Britain.

This month the government’s new lockdown in England means travel abroad is not permitted at all, other than for a limited set of reasons including work and education.

Watch: Air bridges: Most of Greece removed from travel corridors list