According to a new study from Edge Health and Oxera in the UK, ‘the UK Government’s current 14-day quarantine policy for international arrivals, which involves no test, is far more ineffective than previously considered’.
“Just 25 per cent of ‘infectious days’ are prevented through the [14-day quarantine] policy, which has been in effect since July 2020,” Oxera said; whereas, a single test on arrival (as is being utilised by many airports and airlines) reduces infectious days by 51 per cent; an RT-PCR test three days prior to departure reduces the infectious days by 36 per cent; and a ‘test and release’ regime on day three minimises infectious days by 60 per cent (with a RT-LAMP test).
Not all travellers follow the rules
Additionally, a Euro Surveill study that the report cites also notes that just 71 per cent of symptomatic individuals may be following the rules, falling to as low as 28 per cent for asymptomatic individuals.
“The current policy of 14-day quarantine is the least effective strategy due to human behaviour, with returning travellers often failing to comply and risking community transmission,” George Batchelor, Co-Founder and Director of Edge Health and Co-Author of the report, said. “Our modelling finds a much more effective path in passenger testing, which, if it’s applied as a ‘test and release’ regime, performs the best at reducing infectious days after three days’ quarantine.”
Minimising the transmission of Covid while encouraging the restoration of travel
The paper has been released to the UK’s Global Travel Taskforce, which is considering a ‘test and trace’ after a five or seven days regime. While more effective than the current 14-day quarantine, this could be less effective than some of the other passenger tracing options outlined by the study.
Commenting on the study, which was released before the UK entered its second nationwide lockdown, Michele Granatstein, Partner at Oxera and Co-Author of the report, said: “Given that a number of passengers travelling from the EU to the UK do not have to adhere to the quarantine policy due to travel corridors, and given there is no testing scheme in place, it is likely that some infectious travellers are also being released into the community under the government’s current policy.”
It's no surprise that incorporating testing into the travel process reduces the need to isolate, but the fact that it can be integrated in specific ways so as to reduce the onward transmission of Covid into the community only further strengthens the importance of this research. And to do so while also reducing the inconvenience of quarantine to passengers can only have a positive effect on restoring travel trade, as well as a confidence in travel.