Double-jabbed travellers will no longer have to take expensive PCR Covid tests when returning to the UK, the Government is poised to announce.
Officials are working towards scrapping the requirement for green and amber list countries before the half-term holidays next month, The Mail on Sunday can reveal, providing a huge boost for millions of holidaymakers and the beleaguered travel industry.
Travellers will no longer need Covid tests before leaving for Britain, while the unpopular PCR tests currently required on the second day after arrival will be replaced by cheaper lateral flow tests.
The move will slash the cost of family holidays by hundreds of pounds. Currently, the PCR test can cost more than £100, while the NHS offers free lateral flow tests.
The plan will be discussed this week by Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove who form the so-called Covid-O committee.
The change would also tackle fears that some PCR firms are profiteering and could provide an incentive for people to be vaccinated, as the new rules would only apply to those who have been double jabbed.
News of the plan came as:
- The Prime Minister prepared to set out his winter plan for coronavirus on Tuesday, saying: ‘Life has returned to a sense of normality… I’m determined to get rid of any powers we no longer need because of our vaccine defences’;
- The UK’s Chief Medical Officers were expected to recommend extending the vaccine rollout to 12- to 15-year-olds as soon as September 22, despite the independent Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI) refusing to do the same;
- Ministers were expecting the JCVI to recommend a vaccine booster programme;
- A further 29,547 cases and 156 deaths were recorded, while the number of people who have received two doses of a vaccine reached nearly 81 per cent of the adult population;
- American bank Goldman Sachs urged its entire 6,000-strong workforce in the UK to return to the office from tomorrow, with Cabinet Secretary Simon Case facing calls to encourage more civil servants to get back to their desks.
Travellers will no longer need Covid tests before leaving for Britain, while the unpopular PCR tests currently required on the second day after arrival will be replaced by cheaper lateral flow tests
At present, the Government requires all those entering the UK to pay for a PCR coronavirus test on or before the second day after their arrival, no matter what their vaccination status. Those arriving from countries on the Government’s amber list also have to take a pre-departure test, which can be a PCR or lateral flow test.
The test is not required for green list countries, while those travelling from red list nations must pay to stay in UK quarantine hotels for ten days.
Travellers will still be required to adhere to the testing rules of the country to which they are travelling but most EU countries have abandoned the requirement for PCR tests for the fully vaccinated.
Details for those under the age of 16 arriving in the UK are still being finalised but the intention is for them to be subject to the same system.
Paul Charles, boss of The PC Agency travel firm, said last night: ‘This would be a significant vote-winner with consumers and the industry. It’s exactly what we’ve been calling for because these tests have been expensive and too confusing.
‘It’s a significant move that would boost confidence and help the travel sector recover substantially. It would help airlines, tour operators, and hoteliers, and crucially, it would help the inbound travel industry which is in turmoil.’
Current test rules would remain in place for those not double jabbed. There has been mounting anger about the cost of PCR tests, with a family of four often having to spend £600 or more. The Competition and Markets Authority last week reported widespread complaints of ‘dodgy pricing practices to unfair terms to failure to provide tests on time or at all’.
On Tuesday, Mr Johnson will set out his plan to combat Covid-19 this winter, when a rise in cases is predicted. He is expected to say that vaccines will remain the first line of defence and downplay the prospect of another lockdown by repealing several Government powers including the ability to close sectors of the economy, curtail events and gatherings, and detain infectious people.
Legal powers in the Coronavirus Act to disrupt education and temporarily shut schools will also be removed, but others – such as giving sick pay to people isolating from day one and being able to direct schools to remain open if they close against Government guidance – will remain. An announcement on booster jabs is also imminent, with the JCVI widely predicted to back the move.
Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, and his counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to recommend that vaccinations be given to 12- to 15-year-olds – advice the Prime Minister is set to accept.
Tory MP Robert Halfon last night said that if that happens, Mr Johnson and Professor Whitty should write to all parents in England to ‘explain why they’ve made their decision, the science behind it, and why they’ve made a different decision to the JCVI’. He added that ‘there must be a rule of parental consent, except in the most extreme circumstances’.–DailyMail