Grant Shapps has ruled out airport testing as he indicated quarantine could be cut to just a week for arrivals to the UK.
The Transport Secretary revealed the taskforce set up to design a testing regime for Britain would study two options, one of which would see arrivals self-isolating before being tested after a week which could halve the 14-day quarantine.
He also suggested the taskforce would explore pre-departure testing which is normally done up to 72 hours before flying, then again after arriving in the UK which could shorten quarantine even further.
However, solely testing on arrival has been ruled out by Mr Shapps because of concerns it might only pick up as few as seven per cent of Covid cases because of the incubation period for the disease when people are asymptomatic.
The taskforce, which is headed by Mr Shapps and the Health Secretary Matt Hancok, is consulting with industry and is due to report to Boris Johnson on options within the next month when the Prime Minister will make a decision on the potential models.
Speaking at the annual Abta travel industry conference, Mr Shapps said: “We’re proposing a domestic test regime, where people land and wait a week, have a test and get early release.”
He said the test would need to take place “in person” and would be provided by the private sector to prevent putting additional strain on the NHS. It would be paid for by the traveller.
Mr Shapps added: “We’re also proposing an internationally recognised system in which Britain would be a trailblazer. When tests and isolation take place prior to travel and after travel and would require no quarantine.
“There are two separate approaches that we’re working on and Britain will be in the lead on both those fronts.”
The second option is similar to the scheme agreed on Tuesday by the European Union where there would be “mutual recognition” of Covid tests by countries.
This would enable business travellers or holidaymakers arriving in a country to reduce or sidestep quarantine by presenting a medical certificate showing a negative coronavirus result.
It paves the way for people to be tested up to 72 hours before flying but relies on countries being able to trust the validity of the medical certificate giving the traveller the all-clear.
Meanwhile, Britain has been accused of discriminating against Africa by refusing to set up a travel corridor to the continent despite it having some of the lowest Covid rates in the world.
A campaign backed by South African born England cricketer Kevin Pietersen, ambassadors says the top UK destinations in Africa have rates well below the UK threshold of 20 cases per 100,000 – and below other European and Asian nations on the UK quarantine-free “green” list.
Yet, Britons are barred from travel by the Foreign Office advice – and if they do go they face quarantine of 14 days on their return. The countries include Rwanda (0.3), Uganda (1.9), Zambia (2.3) Kenya (4.5), Namibia (13.1) and South Africa (19.3).
Mr Pietersen: “With such low covid infections, it seems discriminatory to not have any corridors to African countries from the UK. Health measures are extremely good in countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa.”