Travel rules relaxed as cheaper lateral flow tests replace PCRs from today

Coronavirus travel rules have been relaxed for those returning to England, allowing fully vaccinated holidaymakers to take cheaper lateral flow tests instead of PCRs.

The new rules came into force at 4am, just in time for the half-term holidays.

They mean people arriving in England from a non-red list country can use a lateral flow test instead of the more expensive PCR on or before day two.

However, the lateral flows must be purchased from a private provider – not those provided by NHS Test and Trace for everyday domestic use.

It follows backlash from members of the travel industry, who suggested the costly PCR tests were putting people off flying to non-red list countries.

There are 24 private providers for people to book lateral flow tests from listed on the coronavirus website, with prices ranging from £19 to £39.

According to the Department for Health, passengers need to send a photo of their test result to the private provider – travellers who fail to do so could be fined £1,000.

Anyone who tests positive will need to isolate and take a free PCR test from the NHS to confirm the result.

People travelling on to the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man in the 10 days after their arrival will need to follow the rules for testing and quarantine in those countries.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I’m delighted that from today eligible travellers to England, who’ve had the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine can benefit from a cheaper lateral flow test, providing faster results.

“This huge boost to the travel industry and the public will make it easier and cheaper for people to book holidays and travel abroad, and it is because of our incredible vaccine programme that this is possible.

“Anyone who tests positive must take a PCR test, which, if positive, may be genomically sequenced to check for variants and further help us fight this virus.”

Travellers returning to England are able to use lateral flow tests from Sunday© Reuters Travellers returning to England are able to use lateral flow tests from Sunday

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added: “The change in rules for post-arrival tests will give passengers more options and faster results, just in time for many half-term holidays.

“It’s thanks to the success of our vaccination programme that we can make this switch, giving the industry and consumers a much-needed boost.”

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Testing and self-isolating if you are positive remain crucial steps to managing the pandemic and stopping the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Lateral flow tests must be bought from a private provider© Other Lateral flow tests must be bought from a private provider

“It is also critical that those who have positive lateral flow tests when returning to England go on to get this checked through a NHS test and trace PCR. This way we can continue to monitor new variants and stay on top of the virus.”

Grant Shapps hailed the UK's vaccine rollout© Sky News Screen Grab Grant Shapps hailed the UK’s vaccine rollout


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