‘Gold-standard’ swab tests costing holidaymakers just £45 each will be the key to allowing overseas travel to resume this summer, transport secretary hopes
- Holidaymakers to get a PCR Covid test for just £45 under government plans
- Currently anyone coming in to the UK has to buy £200 package of two-swab test
- Cut in price of PCR test brings hope to millions wanting to holiday abroad
Holidaymakers will be able to get a Covid test for just £45 under government plans to make holidays abroad more affordable when international travel opens up.
The PCR tests, which are required on entry by most European countries, would be provided for a fraction of the current price if the government’s plan goes ahead, the transport secretary said.
‘Gold standard’ PCR swab tests will continue to be required for all travellers arriving in Britain, despite the Prime Minister previously suggesting that rapid lateral flow tests could be considered for use.
The news of cheaper tests for holidaymakers comes three weeks after Boris Johnson asked officials to consider using the on-the-spot rapid tests to make the tests more affordable, stating that the reopening the holiday market from May 17 was a ‘priority’.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, announced the news on Thursday that ‘a new entrant’ had made it possible to supply PCR tests for £44.40.
Currently anyone coming to the UK has to take a pre-flight test and buy a two-swab package to be used two and eight days after arrival.
Official packages use gold-standard PCR technology and cost around £200 a head, this is due to fall to £45 by May 17 when some international travel is set to resume.
A Traveller in the international arrival area of Heathrow Airport, near London, January 18 2021
Shapps told the Commons: ‘I know that the House is interested on the update with regard to travel returning internationally and I wanted to provide a very quick update to say that although PCR tests may be required from a medical, scientific point of view, we have been working with private laboratories, pharmacies, supermarkets and other companies to encourage them to deliver on their logistical expertise and enter the market and drive down the cost.
‘We’ve seen some success so far because the cost of a single PCR day two test now has come down to £60 from one of the large providers on the government-linked site, with a new entrant now at £44.90, enabling more people to access PCR tests as international travel returns.’
The drop in price brings hope to the millions of Britons desperate for a foreign holiday after months of lockdown.
In other good news British tourists will be welcome in France from June 9 as long as they have proof of vaccination or a negative test.
The announcement by president Emmanuel Macron comes as a study finds much of Europe could safely be put on the travel ‘green list’ this summer. The list could include up to 24 countries, The Times reports.
Mr Macron’s announcement will pile further pressure on ministers to restart foreign holidays to major hotspots for sun-starved Britons.
Travellers arriving to England from anywhere outside the UK have to to self-isolate for 10 days and must have proof of a negative coronavirus test
Under France’s reopening, restrictions on cafes and restaurants will be lifted gradually with a return to near-normal by June 30.
The Yale University research showed restarting quarantine-free travel to popular destinations such as Spain, Portugal and Greece would not increase infection rates.
And hospitalisations would only increase by about six a day if travel was restarted with up to 31 European countries. There are currently around 124 daily hospitalisations in England.
Johan Lundgren, boss of easyJet which commissioned the study, said: ‘Based on the results of this ground-breaking research, and applying the principles set out in the roadmap set out by the Prime Minister, easyJet can demonstrate that it is safe to put much of Europe on the green list.
‘This is because the analysis not only shows that travel from several European countries, including popular holiday destinations like Spain, Portugal and Greece, would not affect the UK case rate.
‘But even more importantly, that travel to and from Europe would have very little impact on hospitalisations in the UK.’
He stressed that countries with worrying new variants should remain subject to strict measures such as quarantine.
The study is due to be submitted for peer review shortly. Countries’ ratings as green, amber and red will be set out by May 10.