The chief executive of Heathrow Airport has called on Downing Street to “get a grip” of the UK’s coronavirus quarantine policy.
John Holland-Kaye said the 14-day isolation period applying to many travellers should be shortened as it was “holding back the recovery of the UK economy”.
Heathrow has already unveiled plans for a new testing facility, which it hopes will shorten the mandatory quarantine period for countries not on the UK’s safe list.
“We need to move quickly to get people moving through the UK again to help us to recover the UK economy,” the Heathrow boss told Sky News.
“This is a cross-government decision, and this is a question for Number 10 to get a grip of our border policy to make sure that business can start flowing again…
“This is holding back the recovery of the UK economy and putting thousands and thousands of jobs at risk.
“The government needs to act now to allow testing as an alternative to quarantine so we can get the economy kick-started.”
The plan for testing at the travel hub would allow arriving passengers to book a test and have results sent to them within seven hours. If negative, they could be allowed to leave quarantine after five to eight days.
The airport said it had been working with aviation services company Collinson and logistics firm Swissport on a testing facility.
It claims that more than 13,000 passenger tests could be carried out each day, with the option for more if in demand. They would cost £150 per person, although this could reduce with state aid.
Travellers could also then do a second test at home after a few days and leave quarantine early if they test negative for a second time.
Similar double-testing schemes are already being used in Germany and Iceland, but the proposal would need government approval before it can begin in the UK.
Speaking earlier today, health secretary Matt Hancock said the government was co-operating on this and similar projects: “We are working with Heathrow and other airports on this project.
“The challenge is – because the virus can incubate inside your body without coming forward and without therefore a test being positive even if you’ve got it – the challenge is how to do that testing in a way that we can have confidence enough to release the quarantine.
“It is absolutely a project that we are working with Heathrow on.
“I clearly understand the impact of quarantine on so many people’s lives. It is not something anybody would want to do. So I hope that this project can bear fruit.”