Virgin Atlantic’s CEO Calls For One COVID-19 Test On Arrival

Virgin Atlantic’s CEO, Shai Weiss, has called for the UK government to implement a ‘one test on arrival’ system to kickstart the aviation industry this summer. The British airline boss came out supporting new research that shows a single COVID-19 test on arrival is as effective as implementing ten days of self-isolation.

Virgin Atlantic A350 at the gate in New York
Virgin Atlantic’s CEO has come out in support of a one-test strategy for international arrivals. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

The United Kingdom government was one of the last to implement a mandatory quarantine on arrival following the first wave of COVID-19. However, despite its delayed response, the UK government currently has some of the strictest travel rules going. Holidays are presently illegal, punishable by a £5,000 fine from Monday.

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One rapid test = Ten days quarantine

According to Oxera and Edge Health’s new research, a single rapid antigen test administered upon arrival is as effective as a ten-day self-isolation period. Commenting on the results, the two companies revealed that both options reduced the number of ‘infectious days’ of an international arrival by 63%.

Describing ‘infectious days’, the firms said that travelers with COVID-19 are infectious for different numbers of days depending on when they first contracted the virus in relation to their date of travel. The researchers calculated the number of infections days that would be released into the community when tested or quarantining for ten days. The study also takes into account that not all arrivals comply with quarantine rules.

A rapid COVID-19 antigen test laid out on a table
The report suggests that a single rapid antigen test is as effective as ten days of self-isolation. Photo: British Airways

In the case of red-list countries, the research favors a two-test strategy tied with a three-day quarantine. These would be PCR tests rather than the rapid tests suggested for most travelers. Currently, such travelers must pay £1,750 to isolate in a government hotel for ten days.

The companies have submitted their evidence to the UK government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which means that it could potentially play a role in shaping future travel policy. The UK was set to reassess its stance on travel on April 14th, with restrictions not rolling back until at least May 17th. However, recent suggestions have indicated that the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, may address international travel as soon as April 5th.

Virgin Atlantic supports the research

Given the terrible 12 months that have faced the aviation industry, airlines are keen to try and salvage this summer. With a focus on long-haul routes, Virgin Atlantic has been hit especially hard. Many believe that there will be a strong desire to travel this summer, even with some restrictions in place. However, everything that the government can do to make travel easier will benefit airlines and other travel-related companies.

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350 sits in the moonlight
Virgin Atlantic didn’t carry any passengers for much of last summer. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

Commenting on the findings of the study, Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said,

“In parallel to the world-leading UK vaccination programme, seamless travel between the UK and lower risk countries must remain the objective, enabling the free movement of people and goods that are vital to the UK’s economic recovery.”

He added,

“When applied to the Government’s proposed traffic light framework, this new modelling by Oxera and Edge Health demonstrates how robust and proportionate testing strategies can be applied to amber and red countries, protecting public health by reducing imported infections and capturing variants of concern early through genomic sequencing.”

British Airways CEO Sean Doyle echoed Weiss’ comments, adding,

“We know that testing will be with us for a while, and this report shows that it is highly effective at stopping the spread of Covid. A combination of vaccinations and testing will make travel safe.”

Do you think that the UK should scrap quarantine in favor of a rapid test on arrival? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!