Travel PCR test rules change in Scotland but Wales continues to insist on expensive tests

Travel: Simon Calder discusses taking PCR tests

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The Scottish government has got in line with England and Northern Ireland. They announced on Friday that international travellers to Scotland will be able to use private sector Covid tests.

The change to international travel restrictions means that people returning or visiting Scotland from green or amber countries won’t have to pay for the more expensive NHS PCR tests.

People previously had to book NHS home PCR tests via the UK Government’s booking portal.

International travellers from green and amber countries do not need to self-isolate but are required to take a PCR test on the second day after arrival.

Until now, the PCR tests had to be from the NHS.

READ MORE: Portugal allows unvaccinated Britons back again

The new rule will come into effect this month, however, no exact date has been given.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care Humza Yousaf said: “The step provides more choice and flexibility for travellers and will provide a boost for the tourism and aviation sector.

“We have had regular engagement with the UK Government to understand the measures being taken to ensure test results will be communicated rapidly and reliably to both individuals and to contact tracing services.

“The decision carefully weighs the benefit to the travel sector against our responsibility to the wider public health, and is a further endorsement of the resounding success of our domestic vaccination roll out.”

Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2holidays, said: “Although overdue, this is very welcome news for Scottish holidaymakers who just want to get away to enjoy a much-needed holiday.

“Until now, they have been penalised by an unfair and costly testing regime, particularly when compared to the rest of the UK. Now that this has been rebalanced, it is imperative that governments across the UK do more to bring the cost of testing down.”

Meanwhile, Wales is the only country in the UK still requiring a NHS test, at a cost of £68 each.

At the moment, travellers who do not use NHS tests can face a fine of £1,000.

The Welsh Government said in June they would not change the rules.

Now the only country with the NHS test restriction, Wales may have to give in and follow the rest of the UK.

A BBC Wales investigation also found that travellers to Wales could use private PCR test firms and faced no repercussions.

Conservative MP David TC Davies said: “No-one is allowed to break the rules. Although I’m not happy with the situation in Wales, people have to follow Welsh rules.”

The BBC investigation, however, proved that people have been able to break the rules.

Travellers told the BBC they’d used private firm tests without any problems.

A Welsh Government spokesperson told the BBC: “We continue to review the position with regard to private testing in Wales and are working with the UK government to ensure that only those companies who achieve mutually agreed standards are allowed to provide tests.

“For this reason, for the time being, we require the tests to be provided by the NHS, so that we can identify positive cases as quickly as possible for our Test, Trace, Protect system to follow up.”

With Scotland now firmly in the private test camp, it may be that Wales cannot retain its position for long.

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