Travel quarantine could be axed thanks to ‘game-changing’ new daily COVID-19 testing pilot

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Matt Hancock appeared on Sky News this morning to unveil details of a new daily coronavirus testing pilot due to launch in Liverpool today. The Health Secretary explained that if close contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus undertake one test every day they may be able to sidestep the mandatory 14-day isolation period.

While this is likely to be welcome news for those who are contacted by test and trade, it could also have “implications” for travellers returning from countries currently on the quarantine list.

Mr Hancock explained: “We are piloting a process using these new tests that we have to allow people to take a test every single day instead of having to isolate for that period so that it picks up if you are positive, even before you have symptoms if you’ve caught it.

“But otherwise you can go about your normal business. We are piloting that this week, we will then, should that be successful, roll it out amongst NHS and social care staff.

“And then, in the New Year, roll it out more broadly, subject of course to the clinical results of the pilot.”

Sky correspondent Katerina Vittozzi added: “Soon people who are being asked to isolate because they have been found to be a close contact of somebody who has tested positive.

“Normally, they would be asked to isolate for 14 days but this new pilot could see them being allowed to go about their business, as long as they take a daily test for the first seven days.

“And as long as that keeps coming back negative that means they could go about their daily life and could really be a big game-changer, not just for them, it could have implications for people returning from overseas currently on a quarantine list.”

Despite the current travel ban, expected to come to an end on December 2, the travel corridor list remains in place.

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Britons are able to travel to certain destinations deemed “low risk” without the need for quarantine on their return home.

However, many destinations remain on the quarantine list, meaning travellers will be expected to self isolate for two weeks upon arrival back into the UK.

Any person found to be in breach of quarantine rules could face a fine of up to £10,000.

There are suggestions that a wide-scale daily testing regime could reduce the need for this altogether.

Recently, ministers have also suggested the quarantine period could be slashed from the current 14 days to just five by next month.

The Government is reportedly preparing to introduce a “test and release” scheme which would see arrivals tested five days after their entry into the UK.

If they provide a negative test result they could be released from the need to self-isolate.

A Whitehall source told the Daily Mail: “We are keen to get people flying again when it is safe to do so, and the Prime Minister is particularly concerned about the impact we have seen on business travel.

“Cutting the quarantine time from 14 days to five has the potential to make a huge difference.”

Meanwhile, airlines are also beginning to take testing into their own hands.

Last week, British Airways launches a new testing trial with hopes of reducing the need for quarantine.

The voluntary testing programme of passengers hopes to provide that a test taken 72 hours before departure is “robust” enough to replace the need for any quarantine period.

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