Airport testing for Covid 'is not reliable', insists Dominic Raab

Testing for coronavirus at airports is not a 'reliable' way of preventing the disease coming into the country, Dominic Raab insisted today.

The Foreign Secretary defied mounting calls for a screening system to be introduced to save the travel industry, claiming that backers of the move - now including Labour - had not 'thought it through'. 

Mr Raab said under 10 per cent of cases would be caught by tests at the border, as people might still be asymptomatic.

But he did confirm that ministers are looking at whether a two-test system - with people being checked on arrival and then again perhaps eight days later - could be deployed to halve the two-week quarantine period. 

Growing number of MPs and business chiefs have warned the government that the self-isolation rules are pushing travel companies and airlines to the brink, crippling trade and tourism, and jeopardising the recovery. 

Tony Blair and former Cabinet minister David Davis are among those voicing alarm about the 'strangulation of our economy'.

Testing for coronavirus at airports (Heathrow pictured) is not a 'reliable' way of preventing the disease coming into the country, Dominic Raab insisted today

Testing for coronavirus at airports (Heathrow pictured) is not a 'reliable' way of preventing the disease coming into the country, Dominic Raab insisted today

Dominic Raab

Keir Starmer's Labour has backed the introduction of testing at airports

Mr Raab (left) said under 10 per cent of Covid cases would be caught by tests at the border, as people might still be asymptomatic. Keir Starmer's (right) Labour has backed the introduction of testing at airports

In interviews this morning, Mr Raab dismissed the intervention from Labour, saying the party had been demanding the introduction of quarantine just weeks ago. 'I don't think they are really thinking this through,' he said. 

Mr Raab insisted more airport testing was not a 'silver bullet'.

'Let's just be clear about this when we think about airports – there is no silver bullet in airports,' he told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show.

'The current data suggests that the success rate of positively identifying people with Covid with a test in the airport is less than 10 per cent.'

Challenged that those numbers increase if passengers are tested again later, Mr Raab said: 'The direction of travel will be making sure we have the capacity and the ability for when the time is right to ease up on the self-isolation at home, and that's certainly something that we'll be looking at.

'But we couldn't – and I think Labour have got themselves into a terrible muddle on this – the idea that one test in an airport could resolve the quarantine issues … we couldn't safely do that.'

Pressed on the idea of two tests on Sky News, Mr Raab said: 'We can look at that, we keep it constantly under

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