Boris Johnson under pressure from 40 Tory MPs to replace quarantine with Covid testing regime at UK airports

PUBLISHED: 09:00 25 August 2020 | UPDATED: 12:35 25 August 2020

Boris Johnson is reportedly considering ripping up the Withdrawal Agreement. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Boris Johnson is reportedly considering ripping up the Withdrawal Agreement. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Boris Johnson is facing calls from 40 Tory backbenchers to dump the 14-day quarantine in favour of a coronavirus testing regime at UK airports.

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In total, 80 MPs - 40 of which come from the prime minister’s own party - have written to Boris Johnson calling on him to follow Germany’s lead and introduce airport testing, The Telegraph reports.

More than 30 countries, including Germany, have introduced free Covid-19 swabs to people arriving from “red list” countries.

In a 10-point plan to revive Britain’s travel industry, MPs wrote that it was “imperative” for Johnson to introduce testing as soon as possible to allow travellers from high-risk countries who test negative to leave quarantine sooner.

“Without testing, we risk not only limiting leisure travel but also damaging our aspirations for a truly global Britain,” said the Future of Aviation Group, which includes Graham Brady, chair of the influential Tory 1922 committee, its founder Henry Smith, and Paul Maynard, ex-aviation minister.

“With many of our current and future trading partners currently subject to a 14-day quarantine we are sending precisely the wrong message at the wrong time.

“We know that many within the industry have been pushing for testing for a considerable time, with Heathrow Airport waiting for government approval to start a trial, which could begin as early as the end of this month.”

Ministers have consistently ruled out airport testing because of logistical difficulties but are now understood to be considering a regime which includes tests on arrival in the UK with a second five or eight days later.

The report, which has been sent to transport minister Grant Shapps, has also called for “regional” travel corridors to low-risk areas like the Balearic and Canary islands which are part of quarantined Spain.

This comes as reports suggest Switzerland could be removed from the government “travel corridor” list and as France revealed it will re-impose a 14-day quarantine on Britons arriving in the country within days.

French junior european affairs minister Clement Beaune said: “We will have a measure called reciprocity so that our British friends do not close the border in one single way.

“For travellers returning from the United Kingdom, there will probably be restrictive measures decided in the next few days by the prime minister and by the Defence Council.”

The Future of Aviation Group’s report also recommended dropping “restrictive” quarantine measures on key trading partners like the US and extending the furlough scheme to March 2021 after research showed up to 780,000 jobs were at risk.

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