Costly PCR travel tests will be axed for the half term holidays

Costly Covid traveller tests are to be scrapped in time for families returning from half-term holidays, it emerged last night.

It came as the ‘no-go’ red list was slashed from 54 countries to just seven by ministers.

Sources said PCR tests, which can cost more than £100, will be replaced with cheaper rapid lateral flow swabs for double-jabbed travellers ‘before October 31’.

Travellers will now have to take a photograph of the negative result on a mobile phone and send it to the private provider from whom they bought the test for verification. Free NHS tests will not be acceptable. 

It means families going on a week-long break at the start of the October half-term holidays should be able to dodge shelling out for pricey PCR swabs on their return.

Destinations moved off red include Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, the Seychelles, Tunisia and South Africa. A beach is pictured above in Cancun

Destinations moved off red include Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, the Seychelles, Tunisia and South Africa. A beach is pictured above in Cancun

Destinations moved off red include Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, the Seychelles, Tunisia and South Africa. A beach is pictured above in Cancun

Holidaymakers returning from popular destinations such as Cape Verde, Indonesia and Thailand will no longer have to quarantine in hotels for 11 nights at a cost of £2,285

Holidaymakers returning from popular destinations such as Cape Verde, Indonesia and Thailand will no longer have to quarantine in hotels for 11 nights at a cost of £2,285

Holidaymakers returning from popular destinations such as Cape Verde, Indonesia and Thailand will no longer have to quarantine in hotels for 11 nights at a cost of £2,285

Forty-seven countries were axed from the red list and moved to the safe ‘go’ or green list, opening up quarantine-free holidays to these places for the first time in months.

The changes will take effect at 4am on Monday. Holidaymakers returning from popular destinations such as Cape Verde, Indonesia and Thailand will no longer have to quarantine in hotels for 11 nights at a cost of £2,285.

How will the new lateral flow photos work? 

Ministers agreed returning vaccinated holidaymakers will not have to film themselves taking Covid tests.

Instead, a photograph of the negative result from a lateral flow test taken on a mobile phone and sent to the private provider of the test to verify will be sufficient.

Travellers will not be able to use free ones provided by the NHS.

 

They will have to book them through private providers and prove on their passenger locator form, which must be filled out by all travellers before returning, that they have done so.

Lateral flow tests typically cost between £20 and £40.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid had wanted travellers to be supervised taking the rapid tests.

But following a meeting of the ‘Covid O’ committee of Cabinet ministers yesterday morning, it was agreed that a photo of the result would be enough. 

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Other destinations moved off red include Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, the Seychelles, Tunisia and South Africa.

Travel chiefs last night hailed the move as ‘long overdue’ and said it signalled ‘light at the end of a very long tunnel’ for the beleaguered industry, which has been brought to its knees by the pandemic.

The major re-opening, coupled with the scrapping of PCR tests for the vaccinated, is a huge boost to those looking for a foreign getaway during half-term and beyond.

Ministers also agreed that returning vaccinated holidaymakers will not have to film themselves taking Covid tests.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid had wanted travellers to be supervised taking the rapid tests. But following a meeting of the ‘Covid O’ committee of Cabinet ministers yesterday morning, it was agreed that a photograph of the negative result taken on a mobile phone and sent to the provider to verify will be sufficient.

But travellers will not be able to use free ones provided by the NHS. They will have to book them through private providers and prove on their passenger locator form, which must be filled out by all travellers before returning, that they have done so.

Lateral flow tests typically cost between £20 and £40.

It is understood that there are concerns about whether private providers have enough supply to meet demand, delaying the announcement of a specific date.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘With half-term and winter sun around the corner, we’re making it easier for families and loved ones to reunite by significantly cutting the number of destinations on the red list, thanks in part to the increased vaccination efforts around the globe.’

But ministers faced growing calls to reach a decision on the exact date when rapid swabs will replace PCR tests. A source insisted it will be ‘before October 31’.

The Department for Transport said it was still ministers’ ‘ambition to have this in place for people returning from half-term breaks by the end of the month’. 

It comes after the traffic light system was scrapped on Monday and replaced with one red list and a safe ‘rest of the world’ list.

Double-jabbed travellers will now only have to take one test after returning from safe countries by day two.

From later this month, a PCR test – free on the NHS – will only be required if the rapid test is positive. Children are treated as though fully vaccinated, even if they are not, making family holidays possible.

But non-vaccinated people must quarantine at home for ten days, take a pre-return test within 72 hours and two PCR tests on days two and eight after arrival.

The seven countries that remain on the red list are Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Haiti, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. The red list will continue to be reviewed every three weeks.

The changes only apply to England. It was unclear last night whether the devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will follow suit.

The travel industry hailed the news that 47 countries were being removed from the red list.

British Airways chief Sean Doyle said: ‘It finally feels like we are seeing light at the end of a very long tunnel. Britain will benefit from this significant reduction in red list countries.’

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