Airport coronavirus testing options should be explored as a way to reduce the number of travelers who must spend two weeks in quarantine, according to Labor.
A review of the “chaotic” quarantine rules should consider a “robust testing regime,” given the “terrible warnings” from the travel industry, the party said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said testing at airports would only identify 7% of cases and therefore could give a “false sense of security”.
A government spokesperson said the assessment of how the tests might help is underway.
“Any potential change in testing for arrivals should be robust by minimizing the risk of positive cases being missed,” he said.
The BBC has been informed that a cabinet decision on whether to introduce testing at airports has been repeatedly postponed and may never happen.
People entering the UK face 14 days of self-isolation unless they come from exempt countries – a status determined by separate authorities in each of the four countries.
In recent weeks, Britons on vacation in France, Spain and the Netherlands have been surprised by the abolition of exemptions at short notice.
Last week, Scotland and Wales called on arrivals from Portugal and parts of Greece to quarantine them, while England and Northern Ireland stood firm.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted this had created a “confusing” situation for travelers.
And in a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel, Labor argues that the arrangements “lose public trust and undermine our ability to keep people safe and save jobs.”
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds calls for a review to report within two weeks.
“It should include options for a robust testing regime at airports, and related follow-up testing, which could help safely minimize the need for a 14-day quarantine,” he wrote.
“Given the enormous challenges facing the travel industry and the scale of job losses, it makes sense to view this area as part of a larger package of improvements to the testing regime. ”
He also said there were “serious concerns” about the poor screening of inbound travelers, saying “less than a third of passenger tracking forms are verified”.
Airlines have criticized the use of quarantine measures at a time when lockdowns across the world have contributed to a collapse in passenger demand.
Virgin Atlantic on Friday announced plans to cut an additional 1,150 jobs after securing a £ 1.2 billion bailout deal, months after making 3,150 layoffs following collapse in demand caused by the pandemic .
Airport bosses also criticized ministers.
On-site testing facilities had already been set up at London’s Heathrow Airport, chief executive John Holland-Kaye said last week.
“It is frustrating that the government has simply not made the decision to move forward, while governments of other countries in Europe are starting to do so,” he added.
France and Germany are using testing at airports for passengers arriving from countries with higher infection rates.
And, on Friday, former Brexit Secretary David Davis said tests at UK airports – with results for passengers within two hours – could reduce the quarantine to “less than five days.”
“If anyone is sure of themselves, they should be quarantined on the spot,” he said, arguing that the government could pay to accommodate them in underused airport hotels.
However, the Prime Minister responded by referring to Public Health England’s model suggesting that only 7% of cases would be picked up.
While understanding ‘the difficulties’ the airline industry was facing, Mr Johnson said:’ 93% of the time you might have a real false sense of security, a false sense of confidence when you come in and pass a test ”.
“The quarantine system we have must be an important part of our repertoire, of our toolbox, in the fight against Covid,” he added.
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