‘Keep travel tests or risk hard lockdowns,’ warn critics

·2 min read
Testing could be scrapped for vaccinated travellers (PA Wire)
Testing could be scrapped for vaccinated travellers (PA Wire)

After leaks suggested Covid tests for fully vaccinated arrivals to the UK could be scrapped by the end of January, the testing industry has warned the move could trigger “hard lockdowns”.

At present travellers to the UK must book a so-called day two test, to be taken on the day of arrival or one of the two following days.

Requirements for a pre-departure test and for the day two test to be a PCR were dropped earlier this month. They were brought in to “buy time” to limit the spread of Omicron.

A source close to the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, told the Sunday Times: “We are looking at removing all Covid tests for vaccinated travellers by the end of January.”

An announcement is expected on the same day as the review of the plan B measures on 26 January.

But Tom Watson, chair of the Laboratory and Testing Industry Organisation, said: “The only way our country can avoid hard lockdowns is by maintaining a robust Covid-testing regime.

“We have consistently backed relaxing unnecessary restrictions but believe removing testing completely for international travel would weaken those defences.

“Lateral flow tests are a low-cost way to ensure we are able to detect new variants.”

Mr Watson, former deputy leader of the Labour Party, quoted the health secretary, Sajid Javid, as saying: “The vaccine programme, testing programme and surveillance programme are all part of our wall of defence.”

But Mr Javid also said last month that all tests could be removed when the Omicron variant of coronavirus became dominant.

“Very soon, in the days and weeks that lie ahead, if, as I think is likely, we see many more infections and this variant becomes the dominant variant, there will be less need to have any kind of travel restrictions at all,” he told the Commons.

Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency, tweeted: “Do not buy any inbound tests if you’re travelling after 1 February.

“At last the Wild West £1bn-plus private test industry is nearing its end point.”

Last week Ireland dropped its demand for a Covid test for fully vaccinated arrivals.

If testing is dropped for fully vaccinated travellers, the much-disliked UK passenger locator form will continue to be mandatory for arrivals.

At present this online form requires the traveller to pay for a post-arrival test before it can be completed.

Despite the reduction of self-isolation to five days for some people with Covid in England, The Independent has been told that the change will not affect the 10-day quarantine requirement for unvaccinated arrivals.

The “test to release” option allows travellers to reduce it to five days by taking another paid test with a negative result.

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