The END of testing nightmare for travellers? Ministers could scrap pre-departure Covid tests for passengers entering England this week because Omircon is ‘less severe for the double jabbed’ and already widespread in UK
- Pre-departure tests for people wanting to enter England are set to be scrapped
- Ministers will review the plan B measures and testing requirements this week
- The pre-departure tests are seen as redundant now that Omicron is widespread
- But day 2 PCR testing is expected to remain along with most other restrictions
Pre-departure Covid tests for travellers entering England will be axed this week because Omicron has proved less severe for the fully vaccinated, experts claim.
Sources said the government will drop the hated restriction as they no longer needed the data on the weaker strain of the virus that is already widespread.
Ministers will this week review the Plan B measures and travel testing requirements currently in place.
Many curbs are expected to remain but a senior Whitehall insider said pre-departure tests will be among those scrapped.
It comes as ministers yesterday said there is ‘nothing’ in the data to suggest further Covid restrictions will be needed in England despite rising cases.
Meanwhile Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay said an uptake in testing showed the ‘public are taking sensible steps to keep themselves safe’.
But in a hammer blow for those needing a test before returning to work, there were no lateral flow tests available on the Government’s website.
Elsewhere in today’s Covid chaos:
- Ministers are ‘quietly confident’ more restrictions in England can be avoided;
- Scots have been warned April could be ‘too early’ to be planning large parties;
- The firm tasked with test deliveries to pharmacies ‘closed down for Christmas’;
- Secondary school pupils in England will be tested once before they join classes.
Sources said the government will drop the restriction as they no longer needed the data on the weaker strain of the virus. Pictured: A Testing centre at Heathrow in November
Testing regime that may be scrapped as the Omicron threat dwindles:
Travelling home from another country has been a nightmare for may due to new restrictions amid Omicron.
The rules for the fully vaccinated, which are likely to change, are…
- Take a test in the 2 days before travel to England
- Book a PCR test to be taken after you arrive in England
- Complete a passenger locator form
- Take a PCR test
- Take the test any time after arrival and before the end of day 2
- Quarantine in your home or the place you are staying
Travel expert Paul Charles, CEO of the PC Agency, told MailOnline: ‘The constant switching-on and switching-off of measures doesn’t enable businesses or consumers to plan.
‘The government has to further rebuild confidence to travel safely, and that requires removing spurious measures which put off people, especially the fully-boosted, from booking.
‘The combination of pre-Christmas red list countries and pre-departure tests did enormous damage to travel firms which rely on holiday season travel to help get them through winter.
‘At no point has the government offered any economic support measures to assist.
‘So now the Prime Minister, amid the backdrop of living with Covid, needs to protect jobs and remove the pre-departure and Day 2 PCR measures. Lateral flow tests on arrival are perfectly good enough.’
He added on Twitter: ‘Pre-departure tests will be going in this week’s review of Omicron rules; so should arrival PCR tests and self-isolation.
‘These particular measures kill off inbound business and leisure travel and still cost a small fortune on top of the trip itself. LTF tests are good enough.’
A source added to the Times ‘pre-departure tests were brought in to try to slow the spread of Omicron and stop it coming into the UK’.
But the government insider added the tests – which can cost around £80 – are largely redundant because Omicron is widespread.
Ministers yesterday hinted there would be no further Covid restrictions in England despite the rising infections.
Edward Argar, a minister at the Department of Health, said he was ‘seeing nothing at the moment in the data… in the immediate situation that suggests a need for further restrictions’.
He told Times Radio: ‘We need cool, calm heads. We need to look at the data and we need to do everything possible to avoid any restrictions.’
Mr Barclay also said an uptake in testing showed the British public were being careful amid Omicron.
He said: ‘We’ve seen significant behaviour change as a result of Plan B. That’s why there has been such a demand for testing in recent weeks.
‘That, combined with the booster programme, is the key way as a country that we will avoid the need for further measures.’
Ministers will this week review the plan B measures and travel testing requirements currently in place (file photo)
Ministers will review the plan B measures and travel testing requirements this week, and while many restrictions are expected to remain in place, a senior government source said pre-departure tests will soon be scrapped
Fully-jabbed travellers currently have to take a pre-departure test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a post-arrival test.
Those who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for 10 days after they arrive in England.
Though pre-departure tests will likely be dropped, Day 2 PCR tests are expected to remain.
Pre-flight tests and Day 2 PCR tests are still in force in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
But as Britons return to work and schools after the festive period there were no lateral flow tests available from the government website.
Britons were today urged to check every few hours ‘as more become available every day’.
State schools return tomorrow and Wednesday with secondary students being told to test two to three times a week to slow the spread of Omicron.
Many schools will also offer on-site testing. Masks will also be required in class, a policy Boris Johnson previously branded ‘nonsensical’.
But the ongoing shortage of lateral flow tests and predicted staff absences has led to unions predicting disruption ‘looks sadly inevitable’ through January.
People struggling to get lateral flow tests ‘should just refresh’ their webpage, the Education Secretary has suggested.
Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News he had organised a separate supply of tests for schools ahead of children’s return to the classrooms.
Pharmacists have said they have been verbally abused for running out of tests – with the Government blamed for giving the delivery contract to one company, Alliance Healthcare, who shut down over Christmas
Today it emerged the firm given sole responsibility for distributing lateral flow tests to pharmacies by the Government shut down for four days over the festive period – just after it received 2.5 million tests.
Pharmacists have blamed Alliance Healthcare for being verbally abused after they ‘closed down for Christmas’.
Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, told The Times: ‘Why on earth did the government not prepare for this and ensure alternative options for delivery were secured? The government has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to England’s supply of Covid tests.’
Pharmacists are up in arms that only Alliance Healthcare was given the contract to deliver the tests, which were ‘patchy and inconsistent’ from Christmas Eve.
Britain’s Covid infections increased by almost 15 per cent in the space of a week yesterday, but figures show the number of deaths fell by 23 per cent.
Department of Health data revealed a further 137,583 Covid cases in its daily update yesterday, marking an increase of 17,660 on the figures given for Boxing Day.
Meanwhile figures on New Year’s Day showed a 33.4 per cent week-on-week increase in new cases.
Yesterday was the twelfth day in a row cases were above 100,000 as the country moves out of the festive season.
In recent days the week-on-week increase in new cases has been as high as 72.5 per cent – which came on December 29.
The Government said the data could be incomplete due to inconsistency in reporting over the holiday period, with yesterday’s figures for Scotland not available.
Hospitalisation data is also not updated on Sundays.
Restrictions led to a 71 per cent reduction in the number of international flights to and from UK airports last year compared with pre-pandemic levels, analysis showed.
Aviation analytics firm Cirium said 406,060 trips abroad served UK airports up to December 22, compared with 1,399,170 in the pre-pandemic period of 2019.
The recovery of international travel from the virus has been limited due to testing and quarantine requirements and fears of countries being added to the red list.
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