Covid travel news – live: Government to introduce charges for tests, as bookings surge after rules eased

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LIVE – Updated at 10:11

The government will end free provision of lateral flow tests within months in a move that has been criticised as “reckless” by public health chiefs.

Plans to introduce charges for the tests were buried in the government’s Covid winter plan, which was unveiled earlier this week by Sajid Javid, the health secretary.

The relaxation of travel rules is expected to fuel a surge in holiday bookings this weekend, as the amber list was scrapped in favour of a single list of places which will require hotel quarantine on return to England.

Meanwhile, a new tool has found certain groups remain more vulnerable to the virus after vaccination.

The QCovid tool developed by scientists at the University of Oxford shows that immunosuppressed people, and those with dementia, Parkinson’s or chronic disorders such as kidney disease are still at a greater risk of hospitalisation or death from Covid when vaccinated compared to the rest of the population.

Key Points

  • Free lateral flow tests to end ‘within months’
  • Travel firms see bookings spike
  • UK aviation much slower to recover than rest of Europe, says industry chief
  • New tool identifies groups most at-risk from Covid after vaccination
  • Scotland to keep pre-flight tests

India has vaccinated more than 790 million

10:09 , Liam James

More than 790 million people in India have now been vaccinated, a figure higher than the total population of Europe.

A vaccination drive in the country to mark prime minister Narendra Modi’s birthday saw 25 million doses administered on Friday alone, according to the Indian Health Ministry.

Officials say they aim to have administered more than one billion doses by the middle of next month.

Charges to be introduced for Covid lateral flow tests within ‘months’ in ‘reckless’ move

09:50 , Liam James

The free provision of lateral flow tests will end within months, the government has announced.

No date has been set for the introduction of charges, but the winter plan unveiled by Sajid Javid, the health secretary, says the tests will only remain free for “the coming months”.

Public health chiefs and school leaders have united in criticising the “reckless” move.

More on this from Rob Merrick here:

© Provided by The Independent

Charges for Covid lateral flow tests within ‘months’ in ‘reckless’ move

Scotland won’t ditch pre-flight tests

09:32 , Liam James

The Scottish government has said it will also be making changes to travel rules.

The traffic light system will be dropped but Scotland will not follow England in removing the pre-departure test requirement for the fully vaccinated returning from non-red list countries, the government said.

Michael Matheson, the transport secretary, said there were “concerns” that dropping the test would “weaken our ability to protect the public health of Scotland’s communities”.

New travel changes: What are they, and what are the effects?

09:13 , Liam James

Simon Calder, Travel Correspondent, has put together a guide to the new travel system.

In his opinion, there are two “modest positives” to the changes:

© Provided by The Independent

What are the new travel changes and how will rules work?

Singapore pauses reopening amid rise in Covid cases

08:55 , Liam James

Singapore reported 935 new Covid cases on Friday, the country’s highest daily total since last April.

The city state has paused the lifting of restrictions as cases have risen. More than 80 per cent of the population has been vaccinated.

UK aviation much slower to recover than rest of Europe, says industry chief

08:37 , Liam James

Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said UK aviation was recovering from the pandemic far slower than in most other European countries.

Passenger numbers in the UK were only around 20 per cent of a normal summer, while the rest of Europe was seeing around 50-60 per cent, Ms Dee told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“That’s all down to the complexities we’ve built in the UK in the testing system,” she said.

Ms Dee also said this summer had been worse than last year’s for aviation.

Travel rule change ‘will make it much easier for customers to understand’

08:25 , Liam James

Chris Parker, director of capacity and commercial performance at DFDS ferries, said his company welcomed the change to the travel rules system.

“It will make it much easier for customers to understand what they need to do,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

There was a spike in visitors to the DFDS website yesterday, Mr Parker said, and an “uptick” in bookings for October onwards.

Mr Parker estimated the ferry company had this year seen only 20 per cent of the number of bookings seen in 2019.

New tool identifies groups most at-risk from Covid after vaccination

08:08 , Liam James

Scientists at Oxford university have developed a new tool that predicts which groups are most at risk from Covid-19 after vaccination.

The QCovid tool found that immunosuppressed people and those with dementia, Parkinson’s or chronic disorders such as kidney disease were found to be at a greater risk of hospitalisation or death from Covid after vaccination compared to the rest of the population.

Age and ethnicity also factored into risk outcomes.

Samuel Lovett, Science Correspondent, has the details:

© Provided by The Independent

New tool identifies most at-risk groups after Covid vaccination

Travel surge expected, as firms see bookings spike

07:49 , Liam James

Holiday bookings are expected to soar after the Government announced a relaxation of international travel rules, but concerns have been raised over a changed approach to Covid-19 testing.

Alan French, chief executive of travel firm Thomas Cook, said October half-term bookings were up 200 per cent compared to August and he expected this figure to increase as a result of the changed system.

“Based on our bookings already today, I would expect this weekend to be the biggest of the year so far as people take advantage of the great deals on offer, the new easier rules on testing and the simplified system for international travel,” he said.

Andrew Flintham, managing director of holiday company TUI UK, said he had already seen “an uptick in bookings for Turkey in October” and expected a boost in customer confidence with the new rules.

Online travel agency Skyscanner said it saw a 133 per cent spike in traffic in the 30 minutes following Mr Shapps’s announcement, while there had been “huge increases” in searches for destinations such as Turkey and the Maldives in anticipation of Friday’s news.

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