The United Kingdom has launched a Global Travel Taskforce to implement a COVID-19 testing system for international arrivals. The taskforce’s main objective will be to consider the feasibility of a single test taken after a period of self-isolation with a goal of safely reducing the current 14-day quarantine period imposed by the government.
The taskforce will be jointly chaired by the UK government’s Secretaries of State for Transport and Health and Social Care and will work with partners from the aviation, travel, healthcare and testing sectors to “support the travel industry and reinvigorate international travel.”
The taskforce will also focus on facilitating business and tourist travel by looking at “innovative testing models and other non-testing means.” This includes trial programs with partner countries to determine whether self-isolation could be undertaken before departure.
The announcement comes as the global aviation industry is urging governments worldwide to adopt COVID-19 testing for all passengers before departure as an alternative to quarantine rules. Already a number of airlines and airports around the world are piloting pre-flight testing programs, including major US carriers United, American and Hawaiian Airlines.
While airlines, airports and industry groups have welcomed the creation of the taskforce, many argue that the initiatives are long overdue and, since the initial findings will only be published next month, will leave the current 14-day self-isolation policy remains in place.
Dale Keller, CEO of The Board of Airline Representative in the UK, urged the government to “bring forward a passenger testing regime with utmost urgency as a national priority”, while Karen Dee, CEO of Airport Operators Association, added that the ultimate objective should be “ending quarantine altogether through a globally aligned testing system.”
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson agreed, and further suggested that: “Trials between Heathrow and New York should take place in parallel to generate real world data for a pre-departure and on arrival testing approach, as well as regional mainland travel corridors, so that policy can quickly evolve.”