Pricey £100-a-go PCR tests for Brits returning from abroad will be AXED in favour of £20 lateral flow swabs within days in major half-term holiday boost for tourism industry
- PCR tests, which cost more than £100 each, will be replaced with cheaper rapid lateral flow swabs from October 24
- They will go on sale from October 22, just as schools begin their half-term breaks
- Health Secretary Sajid Javid said last night that the move would make going abroad ‘easier and cheaper’
Families planning a half-term getaway were given a major boost last night as ministers confirmed they will scrap costly PCR travel tests in ten days’ time.
The tests, which can cost more than £100, will be replaced with cheaper rapid lateral flow swabs from October 24.
Crucially they will go on sale from October 22, just as schools begin their half-term breaks.
The move could save a family of four around £200 on a trip abroad later this month, and is set to improve confidence in the beleaguered travel sector.
Under the plans, fully-vaccinated holidaymakers will now only have to take the rapid test after returning from safe countries on or before day two.
Scrapping costly PCR tests could save a family of four around £200 a trip abroad when the changeover to lateral flow tests goes ahead in ten days time
A PCR test – free on the NHS – will only be required if the rapid test is positive.
Children are treated as though they are fully vaccinated, even if they are not, making family holidays possible.
But non-vaccinated adults must quarantine at home for ten days, take a pre-return test within 72 hours and two PCR tests on days two and eight after arrival.
Ministers had delayed announcing a specific date for the change to come into effect because of concerns over whether private providers had enough supply to meet demand.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said last night that the move would make going abroad ‘easier and cheaper’.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that the move from expensive PCR tests to cheaper rapid lateral flow tests would make going abroad ‘easier and cheaper’. Pictured at Vale Medical Centre in Forest Hill, south east London
He had wanted travellers to be supervised taking the rapid tests, but a photograph of the negative result taken on a mobile phone and sent to the provider to verify will now be sufficient.
Travellers will not be able to use free tests provided by 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 travel chiefs and MPs said the Government should go further and scrap all testing for fully-vaccinated travellers.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: ‘If you’ve been double-jabbed, why should you have to take a test at all?
‘Even being forced to take a lateral flow test is the equivalent of a tax on travelling – you have to pay it, you have to do it, and you get no choice. These measures remain a barrier to building confidence to travel.’
Labour’s Ben Bradshaw, a member of the Commons Transport Committee, said that while the announcement was welcome, it ‘still leaves Britain with the most onerous and expensive travel regime of any European country’.
A PCR test, which is free on the NHS, will only be required if the rapid lateral flow test test is positive, and children are treated as though they are fully vaccinated, even if they are not, which helps make family holidays possible
He added: ‘What we really should do is follow Europe’s example and allow test-free travel for double-vaccinated passengers and bring us in line with the rest of Europe.’ But Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the trade body Airlines UK, said: ‘We’re grateful to ministers for getting this over the line in time for the crucial half-term period.’
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘Today’s rule changes will make testing on arrival simpler and cheaper for people who are looking forward to well-earned breaks.
‘Taking away expensive mandatory PCR testing will boost the travel industry and is a major step forward in normalising international travel and encouraging people to book holidays with confidence.’