The health secretary has all but confirmed that the government will axe day two PCR tests for people returning from overseas in the upcoming review of its travel rules.
In answer to a question from transport select committee chair Huw Merriman as to whether PCR tests could be replaced by lateral flow tests, Sajid Javid said:
“I don’t want to preempt the statement of my honourable friend the transport secretary but I believe when he does make that statement… [Merriman] will be pleased”.
Later this afternoon Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that the government would set out steps to make testing “less onerous” soon.
“We will be saying a lot more shortly about the traffic light system, about simplifying it and about what we can do to make the burdens of testing less onerous for those who are coming back into the country,” he told a press conference.
The government is due to report on changes to the current travel system on 1 October.
There have already been multiple reports that the “green” and “amber” lists will be scrapped, with fully vaccinated passengers instead free to travel to places with similar rates of vaccination and return without quarantining.
The decision to scrap PCR tests would be extremely popular with the travel industry, which has repeatedly called for them to be replaced with lateral flows.
Recent analysis from the Evening Standard showed that travellers have spent more than £1bn in total on the pricey tests, which cost an average of £93, since May.
Test providers are also under scrutiny from all sides over the quality and cost of their offering, with the UK’s competition watchdog calling for increased regulation of the sector.
These included advertising up-front prices for PCR tests that do not include additional charges, advertising cheap tests that are only available in small numbers, failing to deliver tests or provide results within stated timescales — or at all — and refusing to give refunds when advertised services are not provided.
Javid was speaking in parliament to announce the government’s new winter plan for tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.