Has Iceland shown the way for the travel industry with coronavirus testing on arrival?

Campaigners have demanded that the UK adopts the double-test quarantine policy being adopted by Iceland from this week.

Coronavirus cases in the sub-Arctic nation have been rising rapidly, and are now 50 per cent higher, relative to population, than the UK.

As a result, everyone arriving in Iceland from Wednesday must quarantine for two weeks – or take a two-test procedure to cut short self-isolation.

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Until now, most travellers have been tested for coronavirus on arrival and then been allowed to continue with their plans.

But the government in Reykjavik now says all arriving passengers from 19 August should self-isolate for 14 days – unless they agree to a double-testing procedure that cuts the time to five or six days, if the results are negative.

Travellers are told: “Those in travel-related quarantine who intend to get a second test done to shorten duration of quarantine will need to leave their base of quarantine for the second test but should return there after the test to await the result.”

The UK imposed blanket quarantine on all arrivals from 8 June, and relaxed it for “low-risk” nations from 9 July. But the requirement to self-isolate at home for two weeks has now been reimposed on arrivals from key holiday destinations including France, Spain, the Netherlands and Malta.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, and former spokesman for the Quash Quarantine group, said: “The UK quarantine policy is scarring the economy. It puts off people from travelling and booking ahead, or forces them to consider flouting the law in order to simply go back to work and earn money.

“Let’s see fresh thinking and do what other countries, like Iceland, are doing – a swab test on arrival at the airport at just £50, a mandatory five-day quarantine only, and then a second test free of charge – which, if negative, means tourists and business travellers can then continue with their freedom to roam.

“What is the hurdle to doing that in the UK, with its far bigger infrastructure and testing capability than Iceland?”

The government has said it does not believe there is a “viable alternative” to quarantine. It says only: “You should apply for a test if you have the symptoms of coronavirus.”

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises the government, has been considering a quarantine-and-test system that would cut the need to self-isolate to 10 days. The Sage group believes it would pick up 96 per cent of infected individuals.

But many in the travel industry believe that business travellers and tourists will be uninterested in shaving a few days from quarantine, and will instead go out of their way to avoid the need to self-isolation by cutting back on journeys.

Anyone keen to visit Iceland can fly there on Wednesday for £100 return on easyJet from Luton – a round-trip of 2,320 miles.

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