Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has insisted the Government is making “very good progress” in developing a testing regime to reduce the 14-day quarantine period for international arrivals.
The Cabinet minister also claimed the mass testing programme launched in Liverpool last week gives “hope for optimism” that quarantine-free travel could be possible.
People arriving in the UK from countries without a travel corridor are required to self-isolate for 14 days in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The aviation industry has repeatedly called for these restrictions to be eased for people who test negative for Covid-19.
Mr Shapps is co-chairman of the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which was set up last month to consider measures to support the sector.
In a speech to the annual conference of trade body the Airport Operators Association, he said: “I want you to know that we’ve been making very good progress on a test to release programme, to launch once we’re out of this lockdown.
“This will consist of a single test for arrivals into the UK provided by the private sector at a cost to the passenger, allowing us a much-reduced period of self-isolation.
“Beyond the lockdown, this should encourage more people to be able to book flights with confidence, knowing there is an option which allows them to shorten self-isolation if they’re going somewhere which isn’t in – or does become outside – a travel corridor.”
Mr Shapps said the taskforce – which is due to make its initial recommendations by the end of this month – has been “working extensively” with health experts and the private testing sector on the new regime.
He added: “We will report to the Prime Minister, as promised, with recommendations on how we can support the recovery of international tourism and travel, and of course increase consumer confidence.”
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon told the conference it was “inconceivable” that the Government has not taken more action to limit job losses across airports, airlines and other sections of the aviation industry.
The “warm words” of Mr Shapps “need to be translated into action”, he declared.
“The Government must do far more than simply watch from the sidelines,” the Labour MP said.
“Tens of thousands of jobs that could have been saved have now been lost, but it’s not too late stop further losses.
“More frankly, the Government needs to be more than just a passive observer in that process.”
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “The confirmation of at least a 50% drop in quarantine time for those returning from high-risk zones is heartening news for the travel sector and anyone wanting to travel in December.
“We still believe that a five-day quarantine plus test is the solution that will boost confidence to book and travel.
“It would capture nearly 90% of potential cases and we urge the Government to announce that quickly so that travel can recover swiftly.”