England: Test to Shorten Quarantine

England: Test to Shorten Quarantine

Travelers to England Will Be Able to Shorten Their Quarantine to 5-6 days, if they test negative for COVID-19 on day 5, per this tweet from Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary. Currently travelers to the UK from countries that are not on the UK's quarantine-free country list (which includes many Caribbean island countries and others that have managed the pandemic well, such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and others) must quarantine themselves for 14 days after arrival. That includes travelers from the U.S. and Canada.

The new rules will be come into effect on December 15, 2020. Prior to departure, travelers will have to pre-book their day 5 test from a provider on the UK government's list of approved providers, and must state this on their passenger locator form. The day 5 test is expected to cost between £65 and £120 (~$87-$160), which the traveler is responsible for.

Test results will normally be provided within 24 to 48 hours, so unless a negative test result is received the same day, on day 5, most travelers would exit quarantine on day 6 or day 7.

Shapps, in his video announcement on Twitter, said “Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business. By giving people the choice to test on day five, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic.”

Airlines have been pushing for pre-travel COVID-19 testing to exempt arrivals to the UK from any quarantine at all, but countries such as Germany and Iceland also provide for a day 5 negative COVID-19 test to be released from a longer 10-day quarantine (Germany) or 14-day quarantine (Iceland), in order to take into account the coronavirus incubation period.

The ability to test to avoid a full 2 week quarantine is good news, although ideally England and other destinations would adopt a multiple test model, such as Bermuda, where passengers pre-test prior to arrival, are given a test at the airport and quarantine until that test is received (up to 24 hours), and if negative are able to be released, albeit with mandatory testing on days 4 and 8.

Note that while Scotland and Northern Ireland are considering a similar scheme, neither has adopted one yet, so for now, your final destination must be in England in order to take advantage of the 5th day test option.

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