Latest research reveals that the current 14-day quarantine policy employed by the UK government is less beneficial than what was thought before. This policy is for international arrivals and involves no testing procedure.
There has been recent evidence that suggests that individuals are not adhering to the entire period of quarantine. Hence, this method is less effective than the other passenger testing methods that are currently being considered.
Since the policy came into effect in July, only 25 percent of ‘infectious days’ are prevented
Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary is expected to announce new changes to the quarantine policy in a few days time. This will most likely have a ‘test and release’ system. In this system, passengers can get tested after five to seven days and a quarantine can be reduced if negative results are submitted.
New modelling from Edge Health and Oxera applies the recent evidence of quarantine non-compliance and test sensitivity to understand how effective the quarantine policy is. It is applied using the ‘infectious days screened’.
The researchers used a London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) model as a starting point. They applied the latest real-world COVID-19 prevalence rates and air passenger volumes to submit a comprehensive picture of policy options.
When evidence of non-compliance is taken into account, a single test on arrival would reduce infectious days by 51 percent. This is more than double the rate that the current policy reduces. Furthermore, an RT-PCR test, three days pre-departure reduces the infectious days by 36 percent.
George Batchelor, Co-founder and Director, Edge Health, said, “The current policy of 14-day quarantine is the least effective strategy due to human behaviour. Returning travellers often fail to comply and risk community transmission. Our modelling finds a much more effective path in passenger testing. If it’s applied as a ‘test and release’ regime it will perform the best at reducing infectious days after three days of quarantine. This balances the detectability of COVID-19 and new evidence of quarantine non-compliance.”
Airlines too supported this research
Shai Weiss, Chief Executive, Virgin Atlantic, said, “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. Half a million UK jobs depend on a fully functioning aviation industry; therefore it is vital that policy decisions are based on the latest possible evidence.”
He added, “The ultimate goal must be to safely remove quarantine. It is encouraging that the transport secretary this week recognised effective testing as a way to do this. A real-world trial of pre-departure testing is the next step to generate much-needed data. Also, the industry stands ready to deliver this. It has already proven it can deliver rapid, point of care tests without diverting vital NHS resources.”