Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC News this morning that the Government is assessing whether the current 14-day quarantine period for countries not on the UK travel corridor list should change. It comes following the sudden U-turn on Spanish holidays, which will now see travellers being asked to go into a period of self-isolation upon their return in the UK.
With COVID-19 levels on the rise in many European countries, Mr Hancock emphasised how important these decisions are in ensuring the virus is not transported from overseas.
“We can see, sadly, a second wave of coronavirus that’s starting tor all across Europe,” said the Health Secretary.
“There are many European countries whose number of cases is going up again, and we want to do everything that we possibly can to protect people here and protect people from that wave reaching our shores.”
BBC News presenter Charlie Stayt grilled Mr Hancock on whether the government would be reconsidering the length of time Britons must self isolate following news that many holidaymakers in Spain are now facing problems with jobs after being told they can not go back to work.
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“We are working on whether by testing people during that quarantine it is safe to then be able to release them earlier,” he explained.
However, he added: “We are not imminently making an announcement on it because that work is concluded. Until it is absolutely safe to make that sort of change then we won’t do so.
“But it is something that we are working on, and there are some countries in the world who do that but you have to be absolutely certain that you can track the people who come in, you can make sure they can get the test, you can get the test result, and crucially that the likelihood of them having incubated it for longer, then you do the second test, that likelihood is very low.”
Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye has spoken out about testing at UK airports, saying it is vital to protect both the UK economy and the health of the country.
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He suggested that by conducting a series of tests beginning upon arrival at the airport, Britons may be able to endure a much shorter period of quarantine, and ultimately resume normal life much sooner.
“It would allow us to reduce the time of quarantine because you can be tested for the virus but be at a very early stage of infection and not be showing any symptoms, so based on the medical advice I’ve been given there needs to be two tests,” Mr Holland-Kaye told BBC News.
He added that the new measures could be in place in “two weeks” if the Government would give the scheme the green-light.
However, for the Health Secretary, there is still a long road of research ahead before such changes can be made safely.
“There’s a whole series of essential scientific questions and we have asked the scientists to do that work and they are doing that work but we are not ready to change that policy,” he said.
When asked whether such changes could be made in the coming weeks, the Health Secretary confirmed: “We won’t be making changes, not in the next few days.”
Over the weekend, following a sudden rise in cases of coronavirus in Spain, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued an exceptional travel advisory notice for Spain.
It also reimposed the quarantine period for travellers entering the UK as a result.
The FCO website states: “From 27 July, the FCO advise against all non-essential travel to Spain, including the Balearic and Canary Islands, based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks in the country.
“This advice is based on evidence of increases in cases of COVID-19 in several regions, but particularly in Aragon, Navarra and Catalonia (which include the cities of Zaragoza, Pamplona and Barcelona).
“The FCO is not advising those already travelling in Spain to leave at this time.
“Travellers should follow the advice of the local authorities on how best to protect themselves and others, including any measures that they bring in to control the virus.
“If you are returning from Spain you will be required to self-isolate on your return to the UK, but the FCO is not advising you to cut short your visit.
“You should contact your tour operator or airline if you have any questions about your return journey.”
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