The government appears to be reversing its efforts to introduce airport testing and relax travel quarantine restrictions for passengers arriving in the UK.
Airlines, tour operators and airports were expecting an announcement from ministers this week that would signal an end to the 14-day isolation rule.
However, it appears that measures to initiate tests at the airport or to relax quarantine restrictions will begin in November at the earliest.
A highly anticipated announcement this week will only confirm that a task force is being set up, investigating testing options and reviewing the quarantine – to the dismay of the travel chefs.
Under the leadership of Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the task force is not due to report until mid-November. It will also look for ways to boost the vital aviation sector.
Industry leaders are calling for passengers to be tested at the airport and retested a few days later to cut the current 14-day quarantine period that is crippling the sector and ruining travel plans.
However, a government source said the pressure on testing capacity meant ministers preferred a single-test solution that forced travelers to quarantine for five or eight days before being tested.
A transport ministry spokesman denied that the government was backing down.
A spokesperson said: “We were aware that the practical aspects of using tests to reduce self-isolation time for international arrivals are being worked on with clinicians and health professionals.”
It has been reported that the government is not interested in running airport tests and prefers a normal test after eight days.
Passengers with a negative result could get out of quarantine earlier.