March 3, 2024

Airline-backed study calls for three-day test

By Bev Fearis, published 11/11/20

New research, funded by airlines, has concluded that reducing the 14-day quarantine period to just three days for UK arrivals from high risk countries would be the most effective way to control the spread of Covid-19.

A study by Edge Health and Oxera, commissioned by a consortium including British Airways’ parent IAG and Virgin Atlantic, suggests the most effective time to carry out the Covid tests is on day three of the mandatory quarantine period.

Researchers argue that if passengers knew they would be released from quarantine following a negative test after 72 hours there would be a higher rate of compliance.

They say due to a high level of non-compliance with the current two-week quarantine, the rules prevent a person from spreading the virus during only a quarter of the days when they are infectious.

In contrast, a single test on arrival would reduce infectious days by 51% and an RT-LAMP test after three days would reduce it by 60%.

They claim the Government’s current plan to halve the quarantine to seven days, or to five days, would reduce the number of infectious days by a smaller amount.

The study was based on modelling, confirmed by the Government’s own SAGE advisers, that as few as 28% of asymptomatic travellers  – and only 71% of those with symptoms – actually comply with quarantine.

By contrast, calculations by Public Health England assumed a quarantine compliance rate of 100%.

Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive Shai Weiss told the Telegraph: “This new modelling provides yet more evidence that the Government is significantly underestimating the efficacy of passenger testing.

“But it also shows that the current 14-day quarantine policy is fundamentally flawed in ignoring human behaviour and compliance with the rules.

“With the aviation industry all but grounded since March, it’s essential that the UK Government’s Global Travel Taskforce acts swiftly to ensure that a robust passenger testing regime is in place in the UK by the start of December.”

The Government taskforce is due to report to the Prime Minister this week.