Oliver Dowden hits back at Heathrow chief over ‘global Britain’ warning against travel
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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden hit out at Heathrow Airport’s Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye who suggested that the UK is “falling behind” on testing passengers. Mr Holland-Kaye has insisted testing facilities for coronavirus in airports are the way forward. But Mr Dowden said the two-week quarantine is the only option for returning holidaymakers from countries with a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Dowden said: “I genuinely appreciate how deeply frustrating it is for families who were looking forward to going on holiday to Spain this summer after the dreadful year that we’ve had so far.
“We’ve had to take these quarantine measures to make sure we keep the disease under control in this country and we don’t import cases from Spain.”
When asked whether booking foreign travel was unwise at the moment, Mr Dowden said: “I completely understand why people want to book foreign travel, we all want a break after the year we’ve had so far.
“Of course there is always going to be an element of risk in relation to foreign travel.
“We’ve said we’ll keep the situation in other countries under review and I hope your viewers will appreciate the reason why we’re doing this is because after all the sacrifices we’ve made, if the disease is rising in other countries we don’t want to be in a situation where people are coming back from that country carrying Covid and it starts to be spread widely in the United Kingdom again.
“It’s all part of ensuring we keep it under control here so we can start to move back to more of our normal lives.”
He went on to say there is “no viable alternative to the 14-day quarantine”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If we could avoid imposing quarantine in a way that it was safe to do so, of course, we would do that – that is why we keep it under review.”
He added: “We are not at the point where there is a viable alternative to the 14-day quarantine.
“There is a real risk here – the virus is spreading around the world, it’s rising rapidly around the world.
“We need to ensure that the measures we’ve taken in the UK – which have been very difficult – to keep this virus under control, do not go to waste because we allow cases to come in from elsewhere.”
Mr Holland-Kaye said the testing could be “up and running” in a fortnight after Boris Johnson warned further European nations could lose their exempted status amid signs of a “second wave” of COVID-19.
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The Prime Minister triggered a diplomatic row with Spain by reimposing a warning against all but essential travel to the country and insisting travellers arriving in the UK from there spend 14 days in quarantine.
But he said ministers were looking at ways to mitigate the impact amid suggestions testing could be used to cut the time spent in isolation for those arriving from nations not exempted from the quarantine.
One idea floated is for passengers to be tested on arrival before being tested again a number of days later to confirm they are not infected with the virus. A second test could allow their quarantine to be shortened under the proposal.
Mr Holland-Kaye told the Telegraph he believed ministers are “very keen” on a trial at airports.
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