Travellers arriving into the UK will soon be able to reduce quarantine from two weeks to five days, if they test negative for coronavirus with a single rapid test.
At present arrivals from the vast majority of overseas countries must self-isolate at home for 14 days. The mandatory quarantine has been described as “a travel ban in all but name” by senior travel industry figures.
But the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, is set to announce that a new policy will take effect from a date in the first half of December – in time to benefit arrivals for Christmas.
Travellers arriving from any overseas country will still have to complete the online Passenger Locator Form.
Those arriving direct from low-risk locations on the “travel corridor” list, including some Greek, Portuguese and Spanish islands, will continue to avoid quarantine altogether. Others will need to quarantine for five days, but can then pay to take a LAMP test either at home or a testing centre.
While LAMP tests still involve a swab of the upper nose and/or throat, they are faster, easier and cheaper than the PCR tests that are standard in the NHS and specified by some other countries.
LAMP tests are less sensitive than the PCR version. They do not require complex, time-consuming and expensive thermal processing, and are much cheaper – typically half the £150 price of a standard PCR test.
Costs are likely to fall sharply as the number of tests increases – perhaps to £20-£30.
The announcement will be welcomed by the travel industry, which has been devastated by the collapse in demand due to restrictions on movements to overseas countries and returning to the UK.