UK travel update: Overhaul of 'traffic light' rules expected

Covid-19: Overhaul of international travel rules expected

9/17/2021 9:47:00 AM

Covid-19: Overhaul of international travel rules expected

Ministers are expected to announce changes to the travel traffic light system in England on Friday.

Huw Merriman, Conservative chairman of the Commons Transport Select Committee, said PCR tests were expensive and "putting people off travel" while the rapid lateral flow tests were "just as safe". The NHS charges £68 for a lab-processed PCR test.

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Fully vaccinated people should only need a PCR test as confirmation if their lateral flow test came back positive, he said.One justification for requiring PCR tests is that they can be used for gene sequencing and tracking coronavirus variants.But Mr Merriman said just 5% of positive tests were sequenced in July, adding that people were being "ripped off".

media captionCan you become immune to coronavirus?Alan McNally, professor of Microbial Evolutionary Genomics at the University of Birmingham, said lateral flow testing would be "sufficient" for travellers given the UK's high Covid rate, but argued it was "vitally important" that genome-level surveillance of travel-related Covid cases continued.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I would really hope that there will be very strong mandate that any [lateral flow] tests from travel have to get a confirmatory PCR test."He said past experiences and the emergence of the Delta variant showed that travel-related Covid cases were a "very high risk" to the UK and could cause "big trouble" if they were not being monitored.

With countries such as those in the EU, there is a greater degree of confidence that variants are being reported and vaccination records are accurate, he said. But he said in others it may be less certain.A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Our top priority is to protect public health - decisions on our traffic light system are kept under regular review and are informed by the latest risk assessment from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and wider public health factors."

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