United Kingdom

Day-two PCR tests for double-jabbed holidaymakers to remain until end of October

The much-maligned traffic light system for travel is to be scrapped next month, but expensive PCR tests for double-jabbed holidaymakers will remain until the end of October, it was announced on Friday.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, unveiled a major reopening of foreign travel starting next week with the removal of eight countries from the 62-strong red list that requires arrivals to quarantine in a hotel at a cost of £2,285 per person.

Turkey, Pakistan, The Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya will move to the amber list from 4am on Wednesday September 22.

This will be followed on October 4 by the removal of the traffic light system, with amber and green lists merged into a single “rest of the world” list. Foreign travel will be determined solely by people’s vaccination status.

On the same day, double-jabbed travellers will no longer have to take a pre-departure test but they will still be required to have a PCR test on or before day two of their return to the UK from any non-red list country.

However, fully vaccinated Britons will have to wait until the end of October before the Government ditches the requirement for them to take PCR tests upon their return. It was unclear whether this could be achieved in time to cover the entire half-term period.

The PCRs, which can cost between £60 and £100, will be replaced with the cheaper lateral flow tests, although these will still have to be bought for around £30 from private providers.

Ministers have not yet decided whether this testing will have to be supervised on site or via video links.

“Everyone is conscious that we don’t want to do something that causes lots of costs,” said a source.

By contrast, restrictions will increase for the almost one in five Britons who remain unvaccinated, a move seen as creating a fresh incentive for people to get jabbed. Anyone unvaccinated will lose their right to quarantine-free travel as the green list disappears on Oct 4.

Instead, they will have to take a pre-departure test and self-isolate for 10 days on their return, with two PCR tests on days two and eight. They can still pay for a test on day five to be released if negative.

The plan is for this system to remain in place until the new year to safeguard Christmas holidays.

Lateral flow tests for double-jabbed could be ditched in the new year when ministers review the changes.

“We will review early in the new year. At that point, by doing it early, we can lift restrictions to have more stability for the spring and summer,” said a source.

Asked if that could mean ditching lateral flow tests for the fully vaccinated, the source said: “Potentially.”

The Government will also introduce a change that will mean anyone who stays airside while transiting through a red-list country will no longer have to quarantine on arrival in the UK. 

The country from which they originated will determine their status on returning to Britain.

The red list will be reviewed every three weeks, similar to the practice with the old traffic light system.

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