National newspaper The Telegraph has launched a campaign calling for Covid-19 testing to be introduced at airports and ports by Christmas.
Its Test4Travel campaign calls for ‘affordable’ and ‘effective’ testing to be introduced and claims the government’s “knee-jerk” travel corridors policy is “broken”.
The campaign urges the government to allow testing on arrival at all UK airports, ferry ports, and at Eurostar terminals, followed by another confirmatory test five days later – which it says would limit quarantine to “a short, advisory isolation”. Those with positive tests would quarantine for 14 days, as all passengers from non-exempt countries are asked to do now.
Longer-term, the newspaper is calling for multilateral testing arrangements with other countries, allowing for “rapid testing before departure” to create “Covid-free airports” and “green flights”.
Readers have been urged to write to their local MPs as part of the campaign.
The newspaper – for which prime minister Boris Johnson used to write a regular column – cited a poll by travel consultancy The PC Agency which found that two thirds of Brits would prefer tests on arrival to 14-day self-isolation and a Twitter poll of its readers, which found 92% of respondents favoured testing if it meant the removal of the need for quarantine.
Launching the campaign today, the Telegraph said: “In the last six months we have seen unprecedented disruption to international travel. Yet this week, as the government approaches yet another chaotic episode in its increasingly unpopular quarantine policy, there is an alternative way forward.
Addressing the implementation of travel corridors, the newspaper added: “These knee-jerk travel bans have caused panic and disappointment, sometimes at significant expense for those with holidays cut short. Many have lost money on upcoming, non-refundable bookings. And in the case of Portugal, there is the very real possibility that thousands of children will miss the beginning of the school term, if a quarantine is imposed and families struggle to return in time.”
Passenger Locator Forms, which the government uses to enforce quarantine, were also criticised in the newspaper’s campaign launch – noting that police have only issued three £100 fines for breaching restrictions in two months.
It said a “high percentage” of its readers “would welcome a small additional fee to take a test, rather than face this potential financial fallout”.
The Telegraph noted the loss of agency STA Travel and airline Flybe, as well as proposed job cuts at Hays Travel and British Airways on the launch of Test4Travel.
It also noted a “catastrophic slump” in domestic travel, predicting 2020 GDP as a result of tourism will be half what it was in 2018, and a “knock-on effect” from the halting of business travel on London hotels.
The campaign was backed by Dr Charlie Easmon, of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, who said: “Testing is the best solution because it is rooted in science. It is accurate, fast, simple and non-invasive. Qualities which the current quarantine system is not.”
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye, who has been calling for testing, also through his weight behind the campaign. He said: “Testing is the lifeline that the UK’s aviation sector needs to get back on its feet. We’ve put some of the most cutting-edge rapid testing technologies into action at Heathrow to see which offers the best solution.”
The newspaper concluded: “The Telegraph urges the government to test all arrivals on entry to the UK in order to drop the current, ineffective quarantine. We believe this testing regime will save the travel industry, help to revive the UK’s tourism economy and restore the nation’s faith in our holidays, in a way that will better contain the spread of Covid-19.
“If you agree with Test4Travel, we ask you to throw your weight behind our campaign. Write to your local MP, spread the word on social media, join the debate in the comment section of this article – if you would be happy to pay for a quick and efficient test to avoid quarantine, say so.”
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