Several months into the coronavirus pandemic, very few travel bubbles have successfully allowed passengers to fly internationally without quarantining. Many international destinations still do not allow Americans to visit for nonessential reasons, or they require Americans to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
But in recent months, trial programs for pre-flight coronavirus tests have emerged for Americans traveling abroad — most notably for flights to London via Newark on United and American Airlines routes shared with British Airways. British Airways and American Airlines aim to use the testing data from such programs to aid the British government’s decision-making on covid-19 measures, the Guardian has reported.
And now, emerging from a nationwide lockdown on Dec. 2, England has announced it will shorten its required 14-day quarantine for travelers from high-risk countries to five days if they acquire a negative covid-19 test. (Americans can enter the United Kingdom without a coronavirus test in hand but must quarantine on arrival or face penalties, according to the U.S. Embassy in London.)
The testing programs might signal a travel bubble to come, as officials say they are in talks about a New York-London travel bubble. But doctors say rigorous testing and some degree of quarantine would still be required for opening up work travel between New York and London, especially if a projected rise in coronavirus cases this winter doesn’t ultimately derail the effort.
How do travel bubbles work? 4 questions, answered.
“Conversations are ongoing between the Federal government, international partners, and industry stakeholders on these matters,” a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation said of the New York-London travel bubble in an email. “The Department stands ready to support the safe resumption of international flights to and from the U.S.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland security also told The Washington Post that it is “in close collaboration with our interagency and international partners and industry to safely reopen and encourage transatlantic travel while mitigating public health risks.”
Officials in the United Kingdom and United States have been in discussions about a London-New York travel corridor since October, at one point with hopes of an opening in time for Christmas, according to the Wall Street Journal. While quarantine-free travel between the United States and London has not materialized with one month left in the year, shortened quarantines will begin for U.K. arrivals on Dec. 15. Visitors who acquire a negative coronavirus test five days after their arrival will not be required to carry out the two-week quarantine.
“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business,” U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said of the policy, according to the Associated Press. “By giving people the choice to test on Day 5, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials recently said they are working to similarly shorten quarantine time in their guidance. Former Food and