Travellers to UK could no longer need costly PCR tests

Ministers could be set to make the change next week, it has been reported, in a move that could save travellers hundreds of pounds per trip

12 September 2021
A passport with a Covid PCR test on top of it. Travellers to UK could no longer need costly PCR tests

The costly PCR tests could be replaced by cheaper, quicker lateral flow tests for people travelling into the UK Pic: Viacheslav Lopatin / Shutterstock

By Hannah Thompson

Double-vaccinated travellers to the UK, including travellers from France, could soon no longer be required to take PCR tests to prove they are Covid-free, and could instead take cheaper lateral flow tests, it has been reported today (September 12).

Ministers are preparing to make the change for double-vaccinated travellers entering the UK from green and amber list countries, The Sunday Times and The Mail on Sunday reported.

France is currently an amber list country (see the full UK red, amber, and green lists here). 

Instead of costly PCR tests, fully vaccinated visitors (and returning citizens) will only be required to take a lateral flow test on the second day after arrival. These are currently available free on the NHS.

In contrast, PCR tests are not free for travel purposes, and are only available for free on the NHS in case someone has symptoms of Covid. When paid for, they can cost anywhere from £20-£200 (€76-€234) or more each, depending on supplier or location of the test.

At London Gatwick airport this week, the cheapest PCR test was being sold for £60 per passenger, Which? reported.

The change could therefore cut the cost of travel to (or back to) the UK by hundreds of pounds for a family or multiple travellers.

If they go ahead, the plans are expected to be confirmed this week, at the same time as the British government is also set to introduce Covid vaccinations for children aged 12-15.

In contrast to France, the UK has not yet opened up vaccinations to children or teenagers under 16.

Last week, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said that jabs for children and teenagers aged 12-15 offered only ‘marginal benefits’ and therefore did not recommend their introduction.

Yet, health secretary Sajid Javid has called on Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer in England, to “consider the vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds from a broader perspective", despite opposition from many MPs.

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