International travelers heading to England could cut their mandatory quarantine time by more than half under new rules announced by the British government Tuesday.
Starting Dec. 15, certain travelers could cut their 14-day mandatory quarantine down to five days if they take a COVID-19 test and the results are negative.
The new strategy announced by the the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is meant to “bolster international travel” and business as English airports and local economies struggle to continue operating during the pandemic, his office 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 5, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic,” Shapps said in a statement Tuesday.
England’s decision to loosen mandates on traveler quarantine disrupts a system that’s been in place since the early days of the pandemic, implemented in an effort to prevent visitors from bringing the virus into the country.
The move is the result of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Global Travel Taskforce, created earlier this year to find ways to use testing to cut down on the self-isolation period for travelers.
England is currently under strict lockdown measures until Dec. 2, following a surge in coronavirus cases. Foreign travel is largely banned, except for certain circumstances, such as work and school.
The new system applies to passengers arriving into England from countries, such as the U.S., which are not on the “travel corridor list.” Those arriving from countries on the list are already exempt from most quarantine requirements.
Travelers would have to pay for the test themselves from private providers, which the Financial Times said costs more than £100. Those who don’t submit to a test will have to continue the two-week quarantine mandated by the government.
The nation’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office currently advises against all but essential travel to many countries and territories.