The NI Executive has confirmed that it is currently giving consideration “to the implementation of a testing scheme”.
If implemented, this scheme could allow travellers arriving in Northern Ireland to end their self isolation early following a negative Covid test.
England has already implemented a new ‘test to release’ scheme aimed at helping to make overseas travel more attractive and manageable for holidaymakers.
A Departmental spokesperson for the NI Executive said: “In Northern Ireland, consideration is currently being given to the implementation of a testing scheme which could potentially allow those who have arrived in Northern Ireland from a non-exempt country to end their self-isolation following receipt of a negative test, which would be privately provided.
“The outcome of this work is likely to be known in the near future.”
Speaking about the scheme being rolled out across England, Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of ABTA – The Travel Association said: “The test to release scheme in England should help to make overseas travel more attractive and manageable for both holidaymakers and business travellers.
“We know that Foreign Office advice and quarantine requirements are major impediments to travel, and there is an urgent need to remove these barriers as fast as is compatible with the Government’s domestic health strategy. The outbound travel industry has been hit early and hard by the pandemic and we hope that test to release will help get people travelling once again.
“There is still more work to be done to get more people travelling and to support the recovery of the sector, including having a testing scheme in place for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the Government moving to a regional approach to quarantine and travel advice. It is important that the test to release scheme is kept under review, to make sure that advancements in testing are used to further reduce quarantine to as short a period as possible.”
The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) has welcomed the Transport Secretary’s announcement of ‘Test to Release’ for international passengers arriving in England, stating that December 15 can finally mark a turning point for the airline industry and the travelling public.
Dale Keller, Chief Executive of BAR UK said: “Airlines have been clear to the Government that passenger testing is the single most effective way to get Britain flying again and reconnected to the global economy. With this announcement, passengers can now book in the confidence that they will travel in safe, clean and secure environments created by the world’s airlines and airports, and no longer need to endure a 14-day quarantine on their return.
“We are particularly pleased the Government acted upon our proposals that passengers should have the option to order a home testing kit rather than travel potentially long distances to take a test. We believe that testing creates the opportunity for the devolved nations and Westminster to implement a unified international arrival experience across the whole of the UK, and by working closely with industry can continue on the critical path towards safely removing quarantine entirely for all passengers.”