Airport testing is not a “silver bullet” that will end the need for quarantining, the transport secretary has told Sky News.
But Grant Shapps confirmed the government was looking at cutting the amount of time travellers returning from higher-risk countries need to self-isolate for from 14 days to seven.
Ministers are facing pressure from airports and other aviation firms to “get a grip” on the quarantine policy due to the severe economic effects still faced by the industry.
Mr Shapps said “I hear the calls”, but admitted: “I’m afraid this coronavirus is just not simple to navigate around and we have to do our best.”
He pointed to France, where he said they had put in airport testing but now “realised the same thing”.
“It isn’t actually the silver bullet solution to this,” Mr Shapps told the Kay Burley show.
“What you’ve got to do is being able to test further down the line with a period of quarantine as well.”
Mr Shapps did shed light on potentially cutting the quarantine period, saying: “You probably have to have some kind of quarantine period here, perhaps seven or eight days, maybe a test then.
“But these are the thing we’re working through at the moment.”
Glyn Jones, chief executive of Southend Airport, said an “absence of clear advice from central government” was continuing to “erode consumer confidence”.
While ministers mull cutting the quarantine length, he urged them to act quickly to “put down the sledgehammer” of adding whole countries to the list and “pick up the scalpel” by working on a route-by-route approach.
Wales’ decision last night to put several Greek islands on its quarantine list instead of the entire country “does demonstrate this can be done”, Mr Jones added.
Aviation is the sector that has seen the second highest number of job losses due to the pandemic, with at least 32,015 people having lost their jobs already since COVID-19 broke out.