Quarantine should be slashed to five days through coronavirus testing that would catch nearly nine in 10 cases, senior Tory MPs have told Boris Johnson in a letter ahead of next week's Government taskforce report to the Prime Minister.
The letter – signed by MPs including Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the influential Tory backbench 1922 Committee, and six former ministers – said the Government's current proposal for testing at seven days is too long, citing evidence that tests on the fifth day could catch at least 88 per cent of cases.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, chairing the taskforce with Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, favours testing on the seventh day – releasing those with negative results halfway through the 14-day quarantine – although it is understood that tests at eight and 10 days are also on the table.
In their letter, the 13 MPs – also including David Davis, Caroline Noakes, Paul Maynard, Tim Loughton, Steve Brine and Crispin Blunt – said quarantine should be "as short as possible based on the scientific advice".
They cited modelling by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine which showed that a test on the fifth day of quarantine would catch 88 per cent of infected travellers, with tests on the seventh delivering only marginal improvements in detection.
The letter said testing on day five should be a precursor to reducing quarantine even further through pre-departure tests, which would mean arrivals could be released from quarantine after two days in the UK.
The MPs said evidence was emerging from Canada that 80 per cent of infected passengers could be detected by a test on arrival, significantly more than the hotly-disputed seven per cent claimed by UK ministers. More than 30 other nations have already introduced border testing.
Sir Graham said: "Making visitors spend seven or eight days in quarantine before they can take a test is simply not going to make the difference our economy urgently needs to have. Five days is better, and consistent with the science."
Former Cabinet minister Mr Davis said: "Five days works in places like Germany, is aligned with the science and would be a start. Any longer and the danger is that testing simply won't have the impact on demand that the UK's aviation industry needs it to have."
The former aviation minister Paul Maynard said "opening Britain up for business has never been more crucial", adding: "With testing technology getting ever more sophisticated, we need to move from the back of the queue and become the early adopters."
Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK, said: "For most airlines, a decent number of employees are still furloughed – in some cases over 50 per cent of the workforce. The furlough scheme was designed as a means to help businesses through a period where trading was limited, but for airlines support is being wound down as we enter winter, and with fewer routes remaining open.
"Clearly we need a testing regime to open up international travel, enabling airlines to bring revenue in, and it needs to be the right regime otherwise we're going to see many more jobs lost over the coming months."