BORIS Johnson has doubled down the 14-day quarantine rule – insisting airport coronavirus tests would give a "false sense of security".
The Prime Minister is facing calls to scrap the two-week isolation rules on travellers returning from countries not on the "safe list".
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He has been urged to consider bringing in testing for the disease at airports instead to prevent the "demise" of the aviation sector.
But slapping down critics today, Boris pointed to evidence from Public Health England that revealed only seven per cent of cases could be caught by screening passengers on arrival.
Speaking at a visit to a HS2 site in Solihull, he added: "So 93 per cent of the time you could have a real false sense of security, a false sense of confidence when you arrive and take a test.
"That's why the quarantine system that we have has got to be an important part of our repertoire, of our toolbox, in fighting Covid.
"What we don't want to see is reinfection coming in from abroad and quarantine is a vital part of that."
Tory rebels are urging Downing Street to reconsider their opposition to airport testing and follow the lead of other countries such as France.
One said: "There is some nervousness around false negatives and a requirement to test again seven days later, but that would halve the quarantine, which has to be good for the economy."
While another claimed there was a "lack of imagination on airport testing".
Former PM Tony Blair has also waded in on the row – warning a failure to screen passengers would cripple international trade.
He told BBC Newscast podscast: “I don’t think it’s necessary to do 14-day quarantine when you come back into the country.
"That is if you want literally zero risk.”
No10 has refused to bow to pressure, saying: "Testing at the border does not work to catch people who may go on to get the virus."
But to add to the chaos, Grant Shapps today suggested the quarantine period could be slashed to seven or eight days if travellers are tested.
The Transport Secretary told Sky News airport testing was not a solution to the quarantine problem – but said swabs could help cut down the isolation period.
He said: "You probably have to have some kind of quarantine period here, perhaps seven or eight days maybe a test then."
Heathrow is gearing up in case the Government announces a policy change and has set up the UK's first airport testing facility with capacity to swab 13,000 people a day.
But it will remain closed because of the Government refusal to use the tests as proof travellers won't need to quarantine.
It comes amid confusion over the quarantine rules after Wales decided to pull six Greek islands and Portugal off the list of safe countries.
Scotland has also slapped a quarantine on all of Greece as well as Portugal, but England has refused to bring in any restrictions of people returning from those countries.
The new rules mean people flying into airports in England but are heading to Wales will have to quarantine, but those on the same flight who are staying in England will be free to go.
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