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Former Tory Cabinet minister David Davis branded the current system “clumsy” and led the calls for two tests yesterday. He said: “A safety-first approach could have been introduced – a test at airports and a follow-up carried out at home four or five days later. If both tests showed negative, the quarantine period could have been limited to five days, a much more manageable option for people with manual or public facing jobs.”
Mr Davis added: “The way the policy has been implemented – chopping and changing which countries are in or out on a weekly basis – has maximised the economic uncertainty and damage.
“If it continues, the already huge job losses in the travel sector will increase still further, while airlines and travel companies will go bankrupt.
“We are risking self-strangulation of our economy and we have become a laughing stock to our competitors.”
Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds also called for a robust double test to minimise the need for quarantine.
He said: “It isn’t about a sole test at the airport, it’s about a two-test system.
“If the Government had it up and running it would take away that need for the 14-day quarantine blanket policy.”
Mr Thomas-Symonds voiced “serious concerns” too about the monitoring of incoming travellers, saying: “Less than a third of passenger locator forms are checked.”
The demands came as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab promised to review the 14-day self-isolation instruction for passengers returning from countries not included on the Government’s safe travel list.
But he repeated Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’s view that tests for arrivals on UK soil were not a “silver bullet” for the issue.
Mr Raab also defended the quarantine system in the face of criticism from both Labour and Tory officials.
He said: “We keep all these things under review, and our testing has been ramped right up.
“But let’s just be clear about this thing about airports. There is no silver bullet in airports.
“The current data suggests that the success rate of positively identifying people with Covid with a test in the airport is less than 10 percent. I think the direction of travel will be making sure we’ve got the testing capacity and the ability to – when the time is right – ease up on the self-isolation at home.
“And that’s certainly something that we’ll be looking at.”
Mr Raab also stepped up the call for employees working from home to return to offices.
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He said: “We’ve seen in lockdown a massive shrinking of the economy. We are trying to bounce back as strongly as possible.
“The economy needs to have people back at work, unless there’s a good health reason why it shouldn’t happen, or unless the employer can’t put in place the Covid-secure workplace that we all need.
“But employers are doing that and I think it is important to send the message that we need to get Britain back up and running, the economy motoring on all cylinders.”
MPs yesterday accused the Civil Service of making a “mockery” of the Government’s drive to get people back to the office by continuing to advertise work from home jobs.
The Ministry of Defence, Department of Health, Public Health England and Food Standards Agency are among Whitehall departments still looking to fill such roles.
Tory MP Steve Baker said: “It makes a mockery of ministers and backbenchers trying to encourage our constituents back to work.”
His colleague Richard Holden added: “It looks like the Civil Service are deliberately undermining the efforts of the Government.”
A Government spokesman said: “The Civil Service prides itself in being a flexible employer and has offered elements of home-working across the service for many years.”
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