An alliance of more than 400 British and US businesses is urging the government to introduce compulsory Covid testing of travellers 48 hours before they fly.

British American Business (BAB) said the move could shorten quarantine for arrivals in the UK by ten days by having a second test after three or four days, and in turn open up ‘air bridges’ between the UK and US, and other international routes.

Duncan Edwards, BAB chief executive, told The Daily Telegraph that multinational corporations which split their business between the US and UK were desperate to cross the Atlantic to reinvigorate trading links after lockdown.

And he warned other small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) risked having to shut down their overseas operations if the travel ban continues.

“For people who want to travel for business, the cost of paying for a pre-departure test is irrelevant compared to 14 days isolation or the risk of not going to see their overseas operations,” said Edwards.

“That’s why we are arguing for a mandatory test no longer than two days before departure and then a test on arrival, maybe three or four days later depending on what the science recommends.”

BAB represents all the major banks, airlines, finance houses, manufacturers which have UK and US operations.

The move was backed by travel consultancy The PC Agency. Chief executive Paul Charles said the introduction of a mandatory test, and a further negative result on day five of quarantine would “spread the pressure on testing into other countries; meet the government’s key aim of double-testing and also prevent the vast majority of cases being transmitted”.

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership and Dave Hilfman, executive director of the Global Business Travel Association joined forces to lobby for the same issue.

In a joint statement, they said: “We fully support the Covid-19 ‘double testing’ method that has been piloted at airports in the UK and Europe, followed by a second test within days of arriving in destination. We believe this will be a vital step to revive transatlantic business travel which has been devastated over the past six months.

“It is critical that the UK and US governments adopt a coordinated approach in responding to Covid-19 and the evolving situation, however it has been clear there is a lack of understanding on how the travel industry works, particularly the business travel sector and its value in contributing to UK jobs and the economy.

“Of course, public safety is paramount and should weigh heavily in discussions of restarting travel, but the draconian quarantine measures put in place will deter any business traveller, whereas the cost of a test before departure and another one arrival is a much more reasonable and practical option. Contact-tracing applications can effectively help fight the pandemic but can only do so if they are subject to a common set of standards to enable rapid exchange of information and limit the risks of further outbreaks.

“Unless we urgently start to improve transatlantic trading conditions the fall out for the rest of the year and 2021 could be catastrophic for economies both sides of the pond.”