Travel updates today on ROW list and traffic light system
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has told press that an update on the switch from PCR testing to lateral flow testing for travel will happen “in the coming days”, saying the changes should come into effect “hopefully in time for people returning from half term holidays, potentially, and certainly for the end of October”.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Shapps declined to give an exact date for the change, saying the Department of Health Border Force are working on it.
He suggested the lack of clarity was due to making sure that “the industry itself is able to provide these tests”, adding “it’s quite a big switch for them”.
The news comes as the red list is set to be slashed by 47 countries from Monday. Only seven countries will remain on the UK’s travel red list from 4am on 11 October.
A total of 47 of the 54-strong list will be bumped up to the “rest of world” (ROW) list from 4am on Monday 11 October, including Mexico, Thailand and the entirety of Africa, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced yesterday afternoon.
The countries left on the red list will be Colombia, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
Follow the latest travel news below:
Lateral flow tests no more vulnerable to fraud than PCRs, says Shapps
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has given more information on how the soon-to-be-approved lateral flow tests for travel will work, suggesting that they are no more vulnerable to cheating than the current PCR tests.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Shapps said: “If [your lateral flow test] is positive, you’ll automatically receive a PCR test, you’ll be in the NHS system, as with the normal test and trace, so you’ll get the PCR without having to do anything further, and of course, be asked to isolate.
“If it’s negative, that’s it, you’re free to go, and the good thing is that can either be done as soon as coming through the gates, potentially, at some airports where they might offer that, or you may have ordered a test to be at your home.
“You carry out that test, we’re going to ask people to take a photograph of it so that it’s actually your test. And that’s it, the job is done, there’s nothing further to do. So it’s going to be a much simplified, much cheaper system.”
Asked how authorities could be sure that people were taking the photo of their own test, Mr Shapps said: “Well, look, you could always say this with any system, the PCR system that’s been in place up until now hasn’t required any monitoring at all. So you could always make that argument.
“We have throughout this crisis, though, I think relied on people’s common sense, I think most people wanted to do the right thing.”
Lateral flow tests have improved, says Shapps
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has responded to concerns about the efficacy of lateral flow tests, which are set to replace PCR tests for fully vaccinated UK travellers at the end of October.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Shapps said that “advances in lateral flow tests have changed,” adding “the sensitivity and specificity have improved”.
He also suggested that results times have become faster, saying “we have fewer people out and about for a day or so before they get their result”.
Lateral flow tests to be allowed ‘potentially’ in time for return from half term holidays
Transport secretary has told the BBC that lateral flow testing will be allowed for fully vaccinated travellers “hopefully in time for people returning from half term holidays, potentially, and certainly for the end of October”.
Mr Shapps did not give an exact date for the change, saying the Department of Health Border Force are working on it “for the end of October”.
He said it was a case of making sure that “the industry itself is able to provide these tests”, saying “it’s quite a big switch for them”.
He also attributed the ongoing decision making to refining the photo verification process that was announced yesterday.
Update on PCR testing changes will come in next few days, says Shapps
The government will make another announcement on the timeline for allowing lateral flow testing in the next few days, transport secretary Grant Shapps has told Sky News.
Speaking this morning, Mr Shapps said: “We want to get this done for half term for people.
“We anticipate having it ready for the half term, and what a difference it will make for people.”
He emphasised that the option to take a lateral flow test after travel will make the process “much easier, much less expensive as well”.
No specific date was given for an announcement, with the transport secretary saying it would be “in the coming days”.
Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live blog, where we’ll be following all the latest travel news.
British Airways announce they will resume services to winter sun
British Airways has said that they will resume services and increase frequencies to a number of winter sun destinations that have been removed from the red list.
The airline will increase its services to Capetown and Johannesburg in South Africa; Mexico City and Cancun in Mexico; Sao Paulo in Brazil and Buenos Aires in Argentina.
The airline’s chief executive Sean Doyle said the changes to the government’s red list, which will come into force from next week, were like “light at the end of a very long tunnel.”
He explained: “Britain will benefit from this significant reduction in red list countries and now it’s time to turn our attention to eradicating testing for fully-vaccinated travellers to ensure we don’t lose our place on the global stage.”
Meanwhile, Charlie Cornish, boss of Manchester Airports Group – the organisation which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports – said: “Removing so many countries from the red list gives people the most choice they have had since before the pandemic, which will help stimulate the recovery of the UK’s prized aviation sector.”
Wales confirms it will implement Shapps’ travel changes
The Welsh government announced this evening that it too would implement new travel arrangements announced by transport secretary Grant Shapps.
Officials added that, although it was worried about the impact of travel on the virus in Wales, it was “not practical to develop its own border health policy in isolation from the other nations of the UK”.
A Welsh government statement said:
“We look to the UK government to provide reassurances that it will be maintaining consistent and robust surveillance systems that can detect dangerous variants early and that measures to relax restrictions can be swiftly reversed should the international position worsen.
“We are concerned about the cumulative impact of the risk being carried in relation to opening up travel particularly from higher risk countries.
“This includes the radical reduction in the number of red list countries and the suggestion the UK government is contemplating considerably relaxing the rules around quarantine from red list countries and introducing the use lateral flow tests for returning travellers.
“All of these measures, when taken together considerably increase the risk new variant being introduced into Wales and the UK.”
Which countries’ vaccines are recognised in the UK?
In mid-September, the UK government announced major changes to the country’s international travel and health rules – including its plans to formally recognise a number of vaccines from overseas countries.
Prior to late July, only UK-administered vaccines were officially recognised.
On 28 July, it was announced that the vaccine status of fully jabbed travellers from the US and European Union would also be recognised from 2 August onwards (provided they had received two doses of the same vaccine).
And in the latest update, a further 37 countries were added to the approved list, including India, South Africa and Turkey.
So which countries’ vaccine certificates are now recognised? Our deputy travel editor Lucy Thackray takes a look.
From 11 October, vaccines administered in a further 37 countries and territories are now recognised in the UK
Scotland ‘not afraid’ to restore Covid restrictions if red list cull backfires
Scotland’s transport minister has said the nation “will not hesitate to reintroduce restrictions” if the Covid situation deteriorates, after it was announced countries including South Africa, Mexico and Thailand will be removed from the red list.
Travellers arriving from those destinations from 4am on Monday will no longer need to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.
Just seven countries will remain on the red list: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
The changes were agreed on a four-nation basis, said the Scottish government, as UK transport secretary Grant Shapps announced the same changes for England. Scottish officials added details for the UK’s post-arrival testing regime were being finalised – and that Scotland would align with it.
Scottish transport minister Graeme Dey said:
“It’s important we continue to exercise caution which is why a red list of countries will be retained, carefully monitored and updated following a review at regular intervals.
“If evidence and circumstances change, we will not hesitate to reintroduce restrictions to protect public health in Scotland.
“But the steps we are seeing now pave the way for growth in the travel and tourism sector who we have listened very carefully to and engaged with widely on throughout this difficult period.”
Industry welcomes red list cull – but wants to know why ban dragged on
Following my post earlier (7.13pm), here’s our travel correspondent Simon Calder on what the industry thinks about ongoing red list restrictions – and why hotel quarantine is still in effect.
‘There is no justification for a red list to remain in the UK’ – Julia Simpson, CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council