The Tourism Alliance is one of six influential business groups calling on government to introduce immediate Covid-19 airport testing to ensure key trade routes are not “irreparably damaged”.

The CBI and London First are among others who have reportedly signed a letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps highlighting their concerns over the current 14-day quarantine restrictions.

The organisations urged Shapps to emulate countries such as France, Germany and Italy, which they said had all “successfully implemented” airport testing.

The letter, seen by Sky News, said: “If we don’t act fast with testing, we will make it more difficult for British businesses to continue as world class global players, just at the time where we need to forge stronger international relationships as the UK leaves the EU.

“While health must come first, we cannot allow the UK to fall behind when there is a solution already in place in over 30 countries that enables the health risk to be managed whilst enabling travel.

“We must ensure that important trade routes are not irreparably damaged, and the vision of a Global Britain lost, with European economies capitalising on the government’s quarantine policy which risks holding back the UK’s recovery.”

The letter was sent three weeks after Shapps indicated that airport testing was being examined by the government, while emphasising that its introduction would not eliminate the need for potentially  reduced quarantine period.

The government should “do more – introducing testing and expanding regional travel corridors to include regions where the infection rate of Covid-19 is low and trading routes are vital, particularly working with the USA administration on a reciprocal testing model,” according to the business groups, also including the British Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Business and manufacturing industries’ body Make UK.

“We were pleased to hear you state that the government was ‘actively working’ on testing but we urge you and your Cabinet colleagues to put these words in to action,” they added.

“Some airports across the UK already have the private infrastructure in place – or in plan – to make this happen without impacting test availability for the wider population.”

Tens of thousands of jobs have already been lost by airport operators, airlines and support services groups, such as those which manage ground-handling operations.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye has told Travel Weekly that the airport is ready to go on testing once the government gives the green light and warned of a “catastrophic outcome” if air travel is not able to resume in volume until a vaccine of the virus is available.  

Heathrow has pushed for the introduction of a testing regime for incoming passengers, with a consortium comprising Collinson and Swissport devising a system that the companies say has been ready for adoption for many weeks.

The letter the business groups to Shapps underlines the wider concerns in the private sector about the impact that diminished aviation activity is having on the UK economy.