Travel businesses are pushing the government to release full details of its new “test to release” programme so that people can make travel arrangements for Christmas.
From 15 December, the initiative is supposed to allow travellers to end their quarantine early if they pay for and pass a coronavirus test.
Read more: Covid-19: Travel quarantine restrictions to be relaxed in time for Christmas
But with just a week to go before the programme kicks in, passengers are still unable to book a test from one of the government’s approved providers – because they haven’t been made public.
In order to use the scheme, passengers have to book a test before they land in the UK, and have to include details of the test on the government’s “passenger locator form”. They can do this from 48 hours before they arrive in England.
On the webpage for the programme, however, it still says that a list of private test providers will be published online “soon”.
The general secretary of pilot union Balpa, Brian Strutton, told City A.M.: “Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock and Grant Shapps all lined up to trumpet the Government’s ‘test to release’ scheme but here we are two weeks later and only a week before the scheme is supposed to go live, to find that passengers can’t actually use it.
“How can passengers plan Christmas visits to family and friends abroad, if they can’t book the promised tests to reduce quarantine? This scheme is laudable in its intent but it needs to be up and running urgently.”
Before the Open newsletter: Start your day with the City View podcast and key market data
Clive Wratten, the chief executive of the Business Travel Association (BTA), said that the lack of detail “just one week from launch” was “disappointing”.
The “test to release” programme was designed to replace the government’s current 14-day quarantine period, which has been in place since July.
Under the new scheme, travellers to England will be able to take a test on the fifth day after arrival, as long as they are prepared to pay for it themselves. If it comes back negative, they can then leave quarantine early.
Although most airlines and travel firms welcomed the move away from a blanket quarantine regime, many have argued that the government should have embraced an airport testing programme instead.
Wratten added: “The “test to release” scheme also retains an unnecessary quarantine period which could be removed if the Government fully embraced the potential of on-departure testing.
“Doing this would make all travel more viable, and is crucial for business travel which is a vital enabler for the British economy.”
A spokesperson for travel association ABTA said: “While the introduction of test to release does open the door for more international travel, the reality is that the Foreign Office still advises against travel to most countries.
Read more: High-flying business figures exempted from travel quarantine rules
“As long as this remains the case, there is no recovery in sight for the travel industry and the number of people travelling overseas is unlikely to significantly increase.
“Test to release and the news of a vaccine has helped to boost consumer confidence, the more information the government can provide in advance the more confident people will feel to plan and book overseas travel.”
A DfT spokesperson said: “The Test and Release is scheduled to be implemented by 15 December and the full list of providers will be made available shortly before this date.”
The post Travel firms push for list of approved clinics ahead of ‘test to release’ launch appeared first on CityAM.