Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps has suggested that the Government is pushing ahead to try and find ways to reduce the current 14-day quarantine period on arrival into the UK ahead of the Christmas season. In 2014 alone, more than 5,250,600 people travelled abroad in the week before Christmas.
Meanwhile, Heathrow Airport recorded more than 1,543,2100 passengers arriving and departing between the 19 and 25 of December in the same year.
However, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown rules, air passenger figures in the UK have plummeted, and now there are mounting concerns as to what this means for Christmas.
As many Britons eagerly anticipate a decision on whether they can be reunited with their loved ones, Mr Shapps spoke on LBC Radio to update the public on the cabinet’s latest progress in relation to travel.
The Transport Secretary showed hope for the future thanks to the current testing regime and the announcement of a developing vaccine suggested to have over 90 percent effectiveness.
Speaking to presenter Nick Ferrari, Mr Shapps said: “It is true that we think now with the capacity on testing and in particular with the ability of the private sector to provide testing to people who have travel on the basis that people would pay for them would open up on the way to helping get air travel going again once we are out of this lockdown of course, and safely.
“And if we can shorten the quarantine or the self-isolation in return for a test after a number of days then absolutely that is what we want to do.”
He added: “I will be saying more about this very shortly.”
Nick Ferrari pointed out that reports had suggested the travel quarantine could be reduced to anywhere between seven and five days.
Currently, arrivals into the UK must quarantine for 14 days if arriving from destinations not currently on the travel corridor list.
Mr Shapps added that it was the “goal” to bring in a reduction, with the help of testing, in time for Christmas.
“Of course I do hope that is the case and of course the overlay on this is what is happening with the national lockdown as we see these very worrying figures both in terms of infections yesterday and more so in terms of deaths, which our thoughts are with all of those and their families who have been suffering.
“But that notwithstanding yes we hope to be in a position to do more.
“Remember what we are trying to do here is not reduce safety but use science, testing as a replacement for some of the period of quarantine.
“And because we have managed to get testing up to 500,000, above 500,000 capacity per day and we have got these mass tests rolling out in Liverpool and those are going to be pushed elsewhere it does open up a lot more opportunities for us and I think testing and of course the vaccine are the way we are going to get through this crisis. “
Though the minister said that he did not want to “overpromise and underdeliver”, it was suggested that an announcement could be coming as soon as “next week”.
During England’s current lockdown, travel is banned internationally.
Though Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are subject to their own rules set by the developed government, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is advising against nonessential international travel to certain destinations for all nations.
It states: “From 5 November to 2 December 2020, travelling away from home, including internationally, is restricted from England except in limited circumstances such as for work or for education.
“Different rules apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. You must follow all the rules that apply to you.
“The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides guidance on COVID and non-COVID risks overseas.
“The FCDO currently advises against all but essential travel to many countries and territories on the basis of COVID risks.”