Senior Conservative MPs are urging Boris Johnson to cut quarantine to five days with Covid testing that would catch almost nine in 10 cases.
The call came in a letter ahead of next week’s government Global Taskforce report to the prime minister.
The letter signed by 13 MPs, including backbench 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady and six former ministers, said the current proposal for testing at seven days is too long.
It reportedly cited evidence that tests on the fifth day could catch at least 88% of cases and calls for quarantine to be “as short as possible based on the scientific advice”.
Testing on day five should be a precursor to reducing quarantine even further through pre-departure tests, which would mean arrivals could be released from quarantine after two days in the UK, according to details of the letter reported by The Telegraph.
Evidence was emerging from Canada that 80% of infected passengers could be detected by a test on arrival, significantly more than the disputed 7% claimed by UK ministers, the MPs said.
More than 30 other nations have already introduced border testing.
Sir Graham said: “Making visitors spend seven or eight days in quarantine before they can take a test is simply not going to make the difference our economy urgently needs to have. Five days is better, and consistent with the science.”
Former Cabinet minister David Davis said: “Five days works in places like Germany, is aligned with the science and would be a start. Any longer and the danger is that testing simply won’t have the impact on demand that the UK’s aviation industry needs it to have.”
Former aviation minister Paul Maynard said “opening Britain up for business has never been more crucial”, adding: “With testing technology getting ever more sophisticated, we need to move from the back of the queue and become the early adopters.”
The disclosure of the letter coincided with a survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which found that the infection rate among those who travelled abroad in the past 30 days was roughly the same as that for people who stayed in the UK.
Previous iterations of the long-term study to track Covid in the population had found that those who travelled abroad had higher positivity rates.
Just 3% of participants travelled abroad between September 25 and October 8, and 0.49% of those who had said they had not done so in the last 30 days tested positive compared with 0.58% who had travelled.
Experts said this means there is effectively “no longer a difference” in risk between the two groups, the newspaper reported.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade body Airlines UK, added: “For most airlines, a decent number of employees are still furloughed – in some cases over 50% of the workforce.
“The furlough scheme was designed as a means to help businesses through a period where trading was limited, but for airlines support is being wound down as we enter winter, and with fewer routes remaining open.
“Clearly we need a testing regime to open up international travel, enabling airlines to bring revenue in, and it needs to be the right regime otherwise we’re going to see many more jobs lost over the coming months.”
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