Public anger over mixed messages
Tories in disarray over airport testing demands
Airports are facing severe pressures due to restrictions
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was at loggerheads today with a senior Tory MP and the Scottish Tory transport spokesman over calls to test passengers for coronavirus at airports.
Mr Johnson said testing travellers on arrival would give a “false sense of security” and would only identify 7% of virus cases.
But former Brexit Secretary David Davis said testing could cut quarantine times to “less than five days” and Tory MSP Graham Simpson supported Scottish airport bosses calling for testing to be introduced.
The conflicting views came as exasperated travellers criticised the four nations for sowing confusion by sending mixed messages on quarantine rules.
Mr Johnson rejected Mr Davis’s comments, saying: “The quarantine system that we have has got to be an important part of our repertoire, of our toolbox, in fighting Covid.”
The Prime Minister said that while he understood “the difficulties” the airline industry was facing, “93% of the time you could have a real false sense of security, a false sense of confidence when you arrive and take a test”.
Mr Simpson said that over the last 24 hours he had held discussions with senior management teams at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports and called for urgent action from the SNP government to resolve a looming crisis.
“Scotland’s airports have told me clearly that the Scottish Government must agree a passenger testing regime immediately,” he said. “They cannot wait any longer. Even the threat of quarantine is stopping people from flying.
“Thousands of jobs are already under threat. The airline industry is at risk of collapse and the SNP Government must get round the table with airport bosses and tell them how they intend to stop the situation spiralling any further.”
On the latest quarantine restrictions, the Prime Minister insisted the UK was “overwhelmingly… proceeding as one” even thourgh his transport secretary Grant Shapps admitted that different rules across the four nations were “confusing”.
Earlier, Mr Shapps defended the decision not to impose restrictions on people entering England from Greece and Portugal, despite Scotland and Wales deciding to do so.
Mr Shapps said the difference in quarantine rules was similar to the way lockdown had been applied across the UK.
“I’m afraid, quite often (we) come to slightly different outcomes, which I appreciate is confusing for people,” he said.
Labour has called on the Government to undertake a ‘rapid review’ to improve the quarantine arrangements that it says are losing public confidence’.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, has called on ministers to undertake and complete an urgent review over the next fortnight into the quarantine rules.
In a letter to the Home Secretary, Labour is urging the Government to consider introducing a ‘robust testing regime in airports’ that could help to safely minimise the need for 14-day quarantine.
Labour has been clear that significantly ramped up testing is an important part of trying to respond to the pandemic and safely reopen society.