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

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Double-jabbed travellers will still be required to have a PCR test on or before day two of their return to the UK from October 4 - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Double-jabbed travellers will still be required to have a PCR test on or before day two of their return to the UK from October 4 - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Fully vaccinated holidaymakers will still be forced to take Covid tests despite the Government finally scrapping the much-maligned traffic light system.

The Department for Transport warned that expensive PCR tests will still be required for fully jabbed travellers returning from holiday until the end of next month, and may not be removed before the back end of the half-term week, which starts on October 25.

Even if the Government scraps them in time, fully vaccinated travellers will still face lateral flow or rapid antigen tests, which The Telegraph found on Friday being sold by government-approved private providers for as much as £150.

Airline and airport chiefs said the “unnecessary” continued testing of jabbed holidaymakers and business travellers made travel less affordable and put the UK at a disadvantage to Europe.

It came as the Government removed the traffic light system by merging its green and amber lists of countries, which means unvaccinated travellers will have to quarantine on return from any foreign country. Eight “winter sun” countries including Egypt, Kenya and Turkey will come off the red list.

Johan Lundgren, the chief executive of easyJet, said: “Since July 1, there has been no testing at all for vaccinated travellers within the rest of Europe, and this is why the UK will continue to fall further behind the rest of Europe if this remains.”

John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow Airport, said: “The decision to require fully vaccinated passengers to take more costly private lateral flow tests is an unnecessary barrier to travel, which keeps the UK out of step with the rest of the EU.”

Willie Walsh, the director general of the International Air Transport Association, said: “There is no reason to delay scrapping the wasteful and ludicrously expensive PCR testing regime for fully vaccinated travellers. If it’s the right thing to do, let’s get on with it.”

The Department for Transport told industry chiefs it could scrap PCR tests for the fully jabbed by October 23, but officially it said it aimed “to have it in place for when people return from half-term breaks”.

A Telegraph analysis of lateral flow/antigen tests on the Gov.uk website found the most expensive to be £150, offered by The Private GP Clinic in Sevenoaks, Kent, which compared with the cheapest at £14.99 offered by O Covid Clear.

Ministers have yet to decide whether returning holidaymakers will be able to test themselves at home or have to book appointments or video consultations so they are supervised, which will add extra bureaucracy to trips abroad.

The row over testing came as Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, confirmed that the traffic light system will be scrapped on October 4, as first revealed by The Telegraph, with amber and green countries merged into a single “rest of the world” list.

It means that foreign travel will be determined by people’s vaccination status. Fully jabbed travellers will no longer have to take a pre-departure test from October 4, but will still be required to have a PCR on or before day two of their return until the end of October.

Rules tighten for unvaccinated holidaymakers

The 18 per cent of the British adult population who remain unjabbed will lose their right to quarantine-free foreign travel as the green list disappears.

On any foreign travel, 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.

Mr Shapps also said eight countries will be removed from the 62-strong red list from 4am on September 22, so travellers no longer have to quarantine in hotels at a cost of £2,285 per person. The countries are Turkey, Pakistan, The Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya.

Turkey is among eight red-list countries which will move to the amber list on September 22 - Reuters/Murad Sezer
Turkey is among eight red-list countries which will move to the amber list on September 22 - Reuters/Murad Sezer

“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 for fully vaccinated, the source said: “Potentially.”

The Government will also change the rules so that anyone who stays airside while transiting through a red list country will no longer have to hotel quarantine on arrival in the UK. The red list will also be reviewed every three weeks.

Scotland refused to follow England’s lead and will retain both pre-departure tests and day two PCR tests “due to significant concerns at the impact on public health.”

The travel industry expects a surge in bookings. Thomas Cook said it had had its second best day this year, with bookings for October half-term up more than 200 per cent compared to August.

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