The quarantine period in England will be reduced from 14 days to five days in a bid to boost air travel before Christmas.

Under a new "test and release" scheme to be introduced on December 15, travelers arriving into England from high-risk countries can cut their quarantine time if they test negative for COVID-19. The scheme requires arrivals traveling into England from countries not on the travel green list to self-isolate for five days and then take a single coronavirus test on the fifth day, which is paid for by the passenger and costs £100. The test has a fast turnaround time with results usually provided within an hour.

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A pilot wears a facemask as he arrives at Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport ©Adrian Dennis / AFP / Getty Images

Paul Charles, chief executive of the PC Agency, a travel consultancy, told The Times that the new scheme will be a major boost to the travel sector at Christmas, adding, "I appreciate not everyone can quarantine for even five days but many people can and they will be able to visit family and friends again knowing a shorter quarantine is worth it. Private test results are to be speedier too, enabling faster release from quarantine."

Under Europe's "traffic light system" passengers entering England from green-light countries, where infection rates are low, do not have to quarantine at all. That list is updated every week. Currently international travel is banned under the country's current lockdown status but that's set to end on December 2, and the 'test and release" scheme will come into place on December 15. Transport secretary Grant Shapps said it will give people the confidence to book international trips, knowing they can return to England and self-isolate for a shorter period of time.

The government is looking to introduce a single coordinated UK system in the near future but for now the "test and release" scheme only applies to travel in England. In the meantime, outbound travelers have the option to pay for a rapid COVID-19 test when flying from London, Heathrow on airlines that require pre-departure tests.

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