Passengers will have to pay for the tests themselves and will need to book with one of the private providers on the government’s list.
Authorities have said they want the program, which goes into effect on December 15, will boost travel without putting additional pressure on the NHS.
Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We have a plan in place to ensure that our road out of this pandemic is prudent and balanced, allowing us to focus on what we can now do to strengthen international travel while ensuring public safety.
“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see our loved ones and boost international business. By giving people the choice to test on Day 5, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild itself out of the pandemic. ”
Critics said the measure should have been implemented earlier to make travel easier during the summer holidays. But those who make a living during the winter season, like Tom Staines who owns a ski chalet in France, breathe a sigh of relief.
“This is great news for us,” he said.
“Shortening the quarantine from 14 days to five will mean that our customers will be able to travel. Many have indicated that the short 40s they will be able to cope with when 14 days they cannot. ”
“We hope that the lack of reservations that we have had since the summer will be reversed in the coming days, with some level of certainty on the ability to travel. ”
But some figures from the travel industry point out that even a shorter quarantine remains a major barrier to travel.
Paul Charles, managing director of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “This measure will not be for everyone.
“There are people who will find it easy to quarantine when they return, but a lot of people can’t and they can’t afford it either, especially if they’re a family of four, it might cost hundreds of pounds to take a private test after five days.
“But we have to see a gradual return to what life was like before COVID, and this is the start of that path to normalcy. ”
The government has said that the five-day self-isolation test will ensure that no COVID-19 cases are missed, as it will allow for the incubation time of the virus.
Airlines like BA and Virgin Atlantic want the government to implement pre-flight and post-flight testing, which they say could eliminate the need for quarantine altogether.
Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, stated: « The only way to fully reopen vital trade and travel links, to support the UK’s economic recovery and protect more than 500,000 aviation-supported jobs, is to move to a robust pre-departure testing regime to replace safely quarantine as soon as possible. ”
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce went further, saying travelers will need to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to board the carrier’s flights.
Mr Joyce said the move would be a “necessity” when vaccines were available and he believed it would be “a common thing” among airlines in the future.
But for now, in an industry where hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk, there is hope that state tests five days after arriving in the UK will be the first step towards recovery.