AIRPORT coronavirus tests are set to replace 14-day quarantines when travelling from ‘red list’ countries as Heathrow Airport is ready to become the first to trial £150 swabs.
Cabinet ministers are set to meet next week to discuss the new alternative to quarantines.
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New options include testing passengers between five and 10 days after their arrival to enable them to shorten their 14-day self-isolation, if the results are negative.
Meanwhile, Heathrow yesterday announced that an airside Covid-19 testing centre in Terminal Two was ready to swab its first passengers – for £150 a go.
However, the Government needs to give the green light to start the trial.
The airport has also already planned to open a second centre in Terminal Five next month.
Airlines, airports, and travel industry bosses have argued that testing travellers is the only way to open up movement to and from “high-risk” countries.
It’ll also squash the uncertainty and short notice of travel bans and 14-day quarantines that have been imposed on Brits and end uncertainty for holidaymakers visiting destinations such as France and Spain.
France is expected to announce a “tit-for-tat” 14-day quarantine of Britons arriving in the country, while Croatia could be removed from the UK “green list” in the next 48 hours after being placed on special watch due to a surge in virus cases.
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s chief executive, said testing was the only viable alternative to quarantine, adding: “A lot of countries that are ‘red-listed’ have millions of people who don’t have the disease but can’t travel.
“That’s holding back economic recovery.”
On Monday, Matt Hancock, Grant Shapps, Dominic Raab, and Michael Gove are expected to consider three options – sticking to the current regulation, double testing passengers, and single testing passengers after a period of quarantine.
Double testing would mean passangers would be swabbed at UK airports on arrival, and then again at five or eight days by the NHS, after which they’d be freed from quarantine if negative.
A single test would come after five to 10 days – similar to a scheme launched by Iceland on Tuesday.
Germany and France have also already introduced compulsory tests for international arrivals from “high-risk” countries.
Paul Charles, the chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency, said the UK risked being left behind and could not “rely on quarantine”.
He said: “The Government must prepare for living with Covid.
“You can’t rely on quarantine, otherwise the economy will never recover.
“Other countries are progressing on testing. There is a risk of the UK regressing.”
The Cabinet committee will also consider “regional air corridors” where people could travel quarantine-free to “low-risk” regions or islands like the Canaries in otherwise “high-risk” countries.
Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 committee, said: “The Canary Islands alone are equivalent to Manchester Airport’s third biggest country market and are below the threshold of concern.
“Getting a regional corridor for the Canary Islands alone would salvage at least some of the summer trade.
“There is a suggestion that it could be signed off by a Cabinet subcommittee that doesn’t meet until August 24.
“But every week of delay is costing jobs and threatening the viability of businesses.
“There is an obvious case for regional travel corridors, but action needs to be taken now.”