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Published on Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Covid testing is 'no silver bullet', says Test and Trace boss






Covid testing is unlikely to be 'the silver bullet to fighting the virus', according to the head of the NHS Test and Trace service.


She has also given no reassurance to the travel industry that testing at airports will be in place before the end of the year.


Speaking at a Federation of Small Business webinar on October 13, and responding to a question from Focus Travel Partnership CEO Abby Penston, Baroness Dido Harding, Chair of NHS Improvement and Interim Executive Chair of NHS Test and Trace, said: "[NHS Test and Trace] was working very collaboratively with the borders team on testing [on international arrivals] but the slight rider I would put on that is the science."


"A negative test at a point in time only proves that you are not infectious at that point of time."


"If you have been travelling from a very high risk environment then I would expect that the clinicians will still advise that some kind of quarantine is necessary, so testing will help us, but I doubt it will be a silver bullet to fighting the virus and changing the need for us to be very cautious if people are travelling from very high risk environments."


Her comments were at odds with those of Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who told the ABTA Travel Convention on Wednesday that the government has already ruled out testing on arrival in favour of a single test after a period of quarantine.


Harding joined Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Vice Chair, Martin McTague and the FSB's Chief of External Affairs, Craig Beaumont for the webinar on the Test and Trace system and its impact of its implementation on the SME sector in the UK.


Martin McTague, Policy and Advocacy Chairman for the FSB said: "I know this is tricky and I know the science makes it hard to give somebody a completely clean bill of health on entry to the country but when you think of how many businesses around the country depend on travel in one way or another, it is vital that we try and free up that entry into the country.


"You only have to walk around central London and see the absence of tourism and the impacts of that on massive swathes of the capital. It is something that we should be pouring a lot more effort into."


Focus Travel Partnership CEO Abby Penston said it was 'desperately disappointing' that were was no sense of urgency to get testing up and running at UK borders.


"The UK economy has supposedly set its sights on having a wider global presence by 1 January 2021. Business travel, trade and tourism rely on international travel, but it is stagnating while everyone is stuck in quarantine. Too much time has been wasted whilst decision makers have failed to acknowledge the importance of business travel, which contributes £220 billion to the UK's GDP."


By Louise Longman, Contributing Editor (UK)

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