Go with the flow! Costly PCR tests are cut by half as a major boost to the tourism industry
- The expensive PCR tests, which cost over £100 each, will be replaced by cheaper rapid lateral flow swabs from October 24
- They will go on sale from October 22, just as schools begin their biannual breaks
- Health Minister Sajid Javid said last night that the move abroad would make it “easier and cheaper”.
Families planning a six-month outing got a big boost last night when ministers confirmed they will be scrapping costly PCR travel tests in ten days.
The tests, which can cost over £100, will be replaced by cheaper fast lateral flow swabs from October 24.
Crucially, they will go on sale from October 22, just as schools begin their semi-annual breaks.
The move could save a family of four around £200 on a trip abroad later this month, and will boost confidence in the beleaguered travel industry.
According to the plans, fully vaccinated holidaymakers will now only need to take the rapid test after returning from safe countries on or before day two.
Ditching expensive PCR testing could save a family of four around £200 per trip abroad if the transition to lateral flow testing occurs in ten days
A PCR test – free on the NHS – is only needed if the rapid test is positive.
Children are treated as if they have been fully vaccinated even when they are not, making family holidays possible.
But unvaccinated adults must quarantine at home for ten days, have a pre-return test within 72 hours, and two PCR tests on days two and eight after arrival.
Ministers had postponed announcing a specific date for the change to take effect due to concerns about whether private providers had sufficient supply to meet demand.
Health Minister Sajid Javid said last night that the move abroad would make it “easier and cheaper”.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said moving from expensive PCR testing to cheaper fast lateral flow testing abroad would make it “easier and cheaper”. Pictured at Vale Medical Center in Forest Hill, South East London
He would have liked travelers to be supervised when taking the rapid tests, but a photo of the negative result, taken with a mobile phone and sent to the provider for verification, is now sufficient.
Travelers cannot take advantage of free tests from the NHS, but must instead book through private providers and prove on their passenger locator form that they have done so. Lateral flow tests typically cost between £20 and £40.
Some tour guides and MPs said the government should go further and remove all tests for fully vaccinated travelers.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: ‘If you’ve been double stabbed, why should you take a test at all?
“Even being forced to take a lateral flow test is the equivalent of a travel tax – you have to pay it, you have to do it and you have no choice. These measures remain a barrier to building confidence to travel.”
Labor’s Ben Bradshaw, a member of the Commons Transport Committee, said that while the announcement was welcome, it “still leaves Britain with the toughest and most expensive travel regime of any European country”.
A PCR test, which is free on the NHS, is only needed if the rapid lateral flow test is positive and children are treated as if they have been fully vaccinated even if they are not, allowing for family holidays
He added: “What we really need to do is follow Europe’s lead and allow test-free travel for double-vaccinated passengers and align ourselves with the rest of Europe.” But Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the trade association Airlines UK, said: ‘We are grateful to ministers for getting this over the line in time for the crucial six-month period.’
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The current rule changes will make on-arrival testing easier and cheaper for those looking forward to well-deserved breaks.
“Abolishing expensive mandatory PCR testing will boost the travel industry and is a major step forward in normalizing international travel and encouraging people to book holidays with confidence.”