Families may still be forced to spend £75 on PCR tests when returning from holidays this half-term, it was claimed today.
The day two return swabs were supposed to be scrapped at the end of the month in favour of cheaper and quicker lateral flow tests for the fully vaccinated.
While the Government says it ‘aims’ to have it in place in time for half-term, a Cabinet source said ministers had been urged to keep the PCRs due to fears over variants.
The move would be a major blow for millions of holidaymakers and the beleaguered travel industry which would be aiming to recoup pandemic losses during half term.
‘There’s a very real chance PCRs will still have to be taken after half-term holidays,’ the source told The Sun. In a dig at Health Secretary Sajid Javid, they added: ‘Those who claim to be great unlockers have been captured quickly by the health officials.’
But Department for Transport bosses today told MailOnline categorically it would replace day two PCR tests with lateral flows by the end of October.
Mr Javid had doubled down on his commitment to scrap as many remaining Covid curbs as possible yesterday.
On his 100th day in the job, he told the Tory conference in Manchester that his party stood for ‘freeing things up’ rather than locking them down.
But Mr Javid is said to be concerned that relying on lateral flow tests – which unlike PCR don’t need to be verified in a lab – could encourage lying about positive results.
He has floated the idea of people taking their rapid test in a video call while supervised by a health professional, according to reports.
British holidaymakers leaving Ibiza airport. The government has said returning travellers will no longer be required to pay for a PCR tests once back in the UK, and will instead have a cheaper lateral flow test. However, a cabinet source told The Sun PCR tests ‘will still have to be taken after the half-term holidays’ because of fears of new variants
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who was said to be concerned that those taking the tests could lie about the results, proposed returning travellers do their lateral flow test on video calls supervised by a health adviser from a private firm
A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘From the end of October, eligible fully vaccinated passengers from non-red countries will be able to replace their day two test with a cheaper lateral flow test, reducing the cost of tests on arrival into England.’
On Monday, new rules were introduced to make travel to the UK ‘easier and cheaper’, which included scrapping the travel light system, and replacing it by categorising countries as either go or no-go.
Fully vaccinated Britons also no longer have to do a test before flying back to the UK.
The Government also made a commitment to replace the day two PCR tests with lateral flows for the full-jabbed by the end of October.
Elsewhere, there was speculation among travel industry leaders that PCR tests will be scrapped for the cheaper alternative around October 25 – the start of half term for many families.
The Health Secretary is said to be concerned that when lateral flows become the default, those taking the tests could lie about the results.
He is proposing travellers do their lateral flow test on video calls supervised by a health adviser from a private firm, The Times reported.
This is similar to the way some pre-departure tests which were scrapped last weekend were conducted.
No date has been set for the change but there is speculation among travel industry leaders that it will be around October 25, the start of half term for many families.
A person holds a negative lateral flow Covid-19 test in front of a UK passport (file picture)
On Monday, new rules introduced to make travel to the UK ‘easier and cheaper’ came into force.
The UK’s traffic light system involving green, amber and red lists was scrapped, with locations categorised as either on the red list or not.
It comes amid reports the number of countries on the red list will be slashed to nine from 54 later this week.
Destinations such as Brazil, Mexico and South Africa are expected to be opened up to quarantine-free travel.
Fully vaccinated residents – and unvaccinated under 18s – from more than 50 countries and territories can now enter the UK without needing to complete a pre-departure lateral flow test.
Just a single day-two post-arrival test will now be needed. Under 11s were already exempt from pre-departure testing.
People arriving from a red tier destination will still be required to spend 11 nights at a quarantine hotel costing £2,285 for solo travellers.
The easing of the quarantine and testing regulations – announced last month – has been welcomed by the travel sector.
Airlines and tour operators have been hit hard during the pandemic, and have accused the Government of being too slow to relax and simplify the rules for international travel.
Britain’s current red list of 54 countries and territories
The UK Government’s ‘red list’ of 54 countries is tipped to be reduced to just nine. These are the countries currently on the red list:
Congo (Democratic Republic)
Trinidad and Tobago