THE quarantine period for travellers returning from countries not on the coronavirus “safe list” could be slashed to seven or eight days if they are tested, the Transport Secretary suggested this morning.
Grant Shapps resisted growing pressure to scrap quarantine altogether with a testing regime, but said swabs could help cut down the current 14-day self-isolation.
Mr Shapps told Sky News airport testing was not a solution to the quarantine problem but he said: “You probably have to have some kind of quarantine period here, perhaps seven or eight days maybe a test then.”
He said Public Health England estimated that if people were tested on arrival into the UK, it would only pick up 7 per cent of cases because of asymptomatic infections.
Mr Shapps said: “Airport testing is one of those things that sounds so logical, you come in and get a test, perhaps a rapid test and you go off and you’re free to not quarantine.
“The problem we have is that a day zero test as you get home is unlikely to find the vast majority of people who have travelled with coronavirus but are asymptomatic.”
Ex-PM Tony Blair added to the pressure for airport testing, warning that a failure to screen passengers would cripple international trade as wary Brits avoid travelling.
He told BBC Newscast podscast: “I don’t think it’s necessary to do 14-day quarantine when you come back into the country.
“That is if you want literally zero risk.”
He added the current rules risks “killing” international trade.
Derek Provan, the chief exec of AGS, the company that runs Southampton, Aberdeen and Glasgow airport, told the BBC the ministers were causing the “demise” of UK aviation.
Found of PC Agency of travel consultants Paul Charles, told The Times:“Only testing and more testing is the solution to walking the tricky tightrope between health and economic priorities.
“With over 30 other countries worldwide testing at airports, it’s still not clear why the UK is waiting to invest in such infrastructure.”
Heathrow is gearing up in case the Government announces a policy change and has set up the UK’s first airport testing facility with capacity to swab 13,000 people a day.
But it will remain closed because of the Government refusal to use the tests as proof travellers won’t need to quarantine.
Mr Shapps claimed countries such as France which do have airport screening were now seeing that there was a problem in picking up adequate numbers of positive cases.
The hopes for a reduced quarantine time comes as there was fresh chaos over travel rules after Wales decided to pull six Greek islands and Portugal off the list of quarantine-free countries.
Scotland has slapped a quarantine on all of Greece as well as Portugal, but England refused to bring in any restrictions of people returning from those countries.
Mr Shapps warned this morning the differing travel rules caused confusion for Brits coming back from holidays.
The new rules mean people flying into airports in England but are heading to Wales will have to quarantine, but those on the same flight who are staying in England will be free to go.