Holiday hope as pre-departure Covid tests ‘likely to be dropped this week in Plan B review’

·3-min read

The requirement for people to take a Covid pre-departure test before arriving in England is likely to be scrapped as ministers prepare to review Plan B measures this week, according to reports.

Travel measures were rapidly reintroduced last month to slow the reach of the Omicron variant to the UK after it was first identified in countries in southern Africa.

But some senior Conservative MPs are now reportedly arguing this measure is effectively pointless because Omicron is now the dominant variant in the UK.

“Pre-departure tests were brought in to try to slow the spread of Omicron and stop it coming into the UK,” a source told The Times.

“Now that Omicron is dominant in the UK and everywhere it reduces the argument for having it. We have other ways of slowing the spread through domestic testing.”

Currently, all people travelling to the UK must take a PCR or lateral flow test in the two days before travel.

They must have booked and paid for a PCR test to be taken within two days of arrival.

Travellers must also self-isolate until they receive a negative result from the second test.

The requirement people take a PCR test within two days of arriving in England is set to remain.

Pre-departure tests were reintroduced at the beginning of December following the emergence of the Omicron variant.

It was hoped the measure would slow the spread of Omicron but soon after the measure was reintroduced, cases of community transmission, not linked to international travel, were being reported across the UK.

Omicron rapidly replaced Delta as the dominant strain within a fortnight and now accounts for the majority of cases reported in the UK.

Sir Graham Brady said: “The PM made the right call over Christmas and New Year, trusting people to make the right choices in their own lives and throwing a lifeline to the struggling hospitality sector.

“We now need to see this extended to international travel, which is facing yet more restrictions at a crucial time in the booking season if a more relaxed approach is good enough for the domestic economy, given what we know about omicron, it should be good enough for travel too.”

Plan B measures, which saw a return to people being asked to work from home where possible and face masks being required in most indoor places, are due to be reviewed on Wednesday.

While many other measures are expected to stay in place, it is thought no fresh restrictions are to be introduced.

Ministers say there is “nothing” in the data to indicate they are necessary.

Education Secretary told Sky News: “At the moment, there is nothing in the data that would suggest to me, to us, that we need to go further.”

Health minister Edward Argar said he was “seeing nothing at the moment in the data right in front of me in the immediate situation that suggests a need for further restrictions”.

“We need cool, calm heads,” he told Times Radio. “We need to look at the data and we need to do everything possible to avoid any restrictions.”

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