Simon Calder says current UK travel rules are a ‘mess’
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Speaking to the Transport Select Committee yesterday, Shapps said Covid testing firms were faced with a shortage of lateral flow tests. This will be bad news to many British travellers who wanted to avoid expensive PCR tests after autumn holidays.
In the latest travel news update, Shapps had announced that expensive day two PCR tests would be replaced with cheaper lateral flow tests by the end of October.
Many travel experts and families had hoped the switch would happen before the October half-term break.
Shapps told the committee: “My understanding is that the ramp-up of supply of lateral flow tests through the private testing sector has some way to go. They have been almost entirely involved in providing PCR currently.”
The Transport Secretary added that he acknowledged how important it was to scrap the PCR tests by half-term in October.
Speaking on the supply issue, he added: “We go from a situation where they are providing a low number of thousands to probably millions of tests very quickly and need a few weeks to scale up on it.”
Private companies providing day two PCR tests have faced heavy criticism from travel experts and travellers for selling overpriced tests.
Many travel companies have reported a surge in holiday bookings for October so thousands of tourists will be disappointed if PCR tests remain in place.
The cost of a holiday for a family of four will surge if every family member must purchase a PCR test.
Although travel experts are pleased that PCR tests are to be scrapped, some scientists have expressed concerns over new variants.
Professor Denis Kinane, founding scientist at Cignpost tests, told Express.co.uk: “Now that the Government is set on replacing gold standard PCR tests with the cheaper Lateral Flow Test for arrivals, it is critical to ensure the system will detect worrying new COVID variants.
“Lateral Flow Tests can also be performed at home but observed online by a medical professional.
‘This would ensure that the test is conducted correctly and that the person being tested is who they say they are.
“The Government has to reduce spread and new variants coming into the UK and if lateral flow tests are used, they need to be performed authentically.”
The Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, has also expressed doubts about the safety of scrapping PCR tests.
He said the Government’s handling of international travel was “among the most chaotic parts of its response” to Covid.
Drakeford urged the UK to take a “more precautionary approach” to stop new strains entering the country.
Grant Shapps has said it will take several weeks to switch from PCR tests to lateral flow tests.
Travel experts have also warned that testing providers may be unable to meet the October deadline for the switch.
In the latest travel update, eight countries were removed from the red list, including Turkey, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
From October 4, British tourists will no longer have to take pre-departure tests before arrival in the UK.
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