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Just in time for vacation travelers, England is cutting the two-week quarantine faced by people arriving from regions that are not on Britain’s coronavirus safe list, reducing it to just five days if they test negative for COVID-19.

The change to the quarantine rules, which was announced on Tuesday and will take effect on December 15, has been expected by the travel industry, one of the sectors most affected during the pandemic. The change will bring the rules governing quarantines in England more in line with those of other European countries, including Germany.

Heathrow airport
In this June 8, 2020 file photo, passengers wearing masks arrive at London Heathrow Airport. The two-week quarantine period during which travelers arriving in England from a destination not on the British government’s coronavirus safe list could be shortened to just five days if they test negative for COVID-19. (AP)

Under the new rules, passengers can reduce the 14-day quarantine period by paying for a test from a private company on or after day 5 of their arrival at a potential cost of around £ 100 pounds ($ 180). Results usually take up to 48 hours, but can sometimes arrive the same day.

The change does not apply to people arriving from other parts of the UK. Travelers from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales must continue to isolate themselves for 14 days.

“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones, and drive international business,” said Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps. “By giving people the option to take the test on Day 5, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild itself out of the pandemic.”

Since travel was allowed again after the close of spring, British tourists have faced an uncertain situation when leaving the country, as the government has been removing countries from its safe list on very short notice. Britain’s travel advice to the two most-visited countries, Spain and France, has changed on short notice, forcing many travelers to cut their holidays short and quickly return to the UK to avoid mandatory quarantines.

A member of the public walks through Picadilly Circus on November 23, 2020 in London, England. (Getty)

In addition to shaking up the holiday plans of many British families, sudden changes in government have rocked the travel industry.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the Airlines UK industry association, said the announcement of a shorter quarantine period provided “light at the end of the tunnel” for the aviation industry and people wanting to go on vacation.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of the Abta travel trade group, said the new testing scheme should make travel abroad “more attractive and manageable for both tourists and business travelers.”

The government also announced new financial support for English airports and ground handling companies from 2021.

“This new airport support package, along with a new testing regime for international arrivals, will help the sector take off once again as we rebuild better from the pandemic,” said Treasury Chief Rishi Sunak.

– Reported with Associated Press

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