‘The sooner this can happen the better,’ says transport secretary of swapping PCRs for lateral flow tests
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has declined to say when the downgrading of testing from PCR to lateral flow will take place for arrivals to England.
The change, which may take place before the end of half-term, could potentially save families returning from holidays hundreds of pounds.
Travellers to England will experience three different testing regimes during October alone.
For the first three days of the months, travellers who have been fully vaccinated will need a test before departure to the UK and a PCR test on arrival – the so-called “day two” test
From 4 October, the “test to fly” will be dropped for travellers whose jabs are recognised by the UK.
From some date in “late October,” the PCR requirement will be reduced to a lateral flow test, typically available for half the price of PCRs.
Speaking to MPs on the Transport Select Committee, Mr Shapps said that the change was a Department of Health matter – but that officials “understand that speed is of great importance”.
In response to a question from the senior Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw, he said: “My understanding is that the ramp-up of supply of lateral flow through the private testing sector still has some way to go, inasmuch as they have been almost entirely involved in providing PCRs currently.”
He said that technical changes needed to be made to the passenger locator form.
“The sooner this can happen the better.”
But, he added: “Your question would be better put to a health minister. I’m not privy to the technical reasons.”
The transport secretary also confirmed that the three-weekly reviews of risk from individual countries will continue – though ideally with more notice given of nations being moved to the red list.
“I hope, given our level of vaccination, given the level of vaccination around the world now, that we have moved away from the bad old days when things had to happen very, very quickly,” he said.
Mr Shapps also appeared to confuse his earlier announcement of recognition of vaccinations administered by the UAE with the removal of eight countries from the “red list” in an announcement last Friday, 17 September.
“They weren’t one of the eight countries to come off the list the other day,” he told the committee. “They are off the list today.”
The UAE was removed from the red list in August.