LONDON • England will introduce a system on Dec 15 that lets passengers arriving from high-risk countries take a Covid-19 test after five days of quarantine and be released from further self-isolation if they test negative.
Airlines and other firms in the travel and tourism industries had been calling for such a scheme for months, having suffered devastating consequences from a 14-day quarantine rule that has deterred people from travelling.
England's lockdown bans most international travel but when it ends on Dec 2, people will be free to go abroad though they will still face restrictions in their local area, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said yesterday.
"You can go abroad but... there's a penalty to pay for that in terms of having a potential quarantine period when you come back," he told BBC Radio, when asked about the end of lockdown.
The potential for shorter quarantine and more travel buoyed shares in London-listed travel companies. The new scheme will apply to passengers from countries not on the government's safe travel list, such as France, Italy, Spain and major destinations favoured by British tourists.
People travelling to England by plane, ferry or train from Dec 15 and wishing to take advantage of the scheme must book a test with a private provider from a government-approved list. They will have to pay for their test.
Wizz Air, which serves a handful of British airports, announced a partnership with a testing company to offer its passengers cheaper tests, while Gatwick Airport, Britain's No. 2 airport, has set up a testing centre.
Separately, the European Union has reached a deal with US biotech firm Moderna for the supply of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said yesterday, adding it "allows us to buy up to 160 million doses of a vaccine produced by Moderna".
Last week, Moderna said its experimental vaccine was 94.5 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19, based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial.