Travel review: George Eustice signals rules for trips abroad will be relaxed in time for October half-term
Foreign travel rules are to be relaxed to allow a great half-term getaway, a Cabinet minister signalled on Friday.
Environment Secretary George Eustice stressed that the Government is “listening” to the travel industry which has been warning that strict rules with costly PCR tests have been deterring many families from flying abroad.
Ministers are due to meet later on Friday to sign off a major overhaul of the restrictions with the green and amber lists set to be merged into one group of low risk destinations and the red list reduced. Costly PCR tests required prior to returning to England are also expected to be scrapped for double vaccinated passengers.
A PCR test on day two of returning to England is expected to be replaced with a lateral flow test, and if positive, the individual would then have to take a PCR.
The changes aim to open up foreign travel while still protecting the nation against new variants.
The moves will be welcomed by the travel industry which has been severely hit by the pandemic over the last 18 months and has been calling for the government to further relax quarantine rules and to remove the need for fully jabbed passengers to take PCR tests on their return into the country.
Although Environment Secretary George Eustice said testing travellers had been a crucial tool in the fight against Covid, the government was looking to reducing “burdens” on travellers and the industry.
Mr Eustice told Sky News: “I know that this has been raised by the travel industry, that they think some of this testing may be unnecessary, may be onerous, the government will be listening to that and obviously the Covid sub committee of cabinet that decides these things will be considering that, probably later today.
“We have already made that big step forward of ending the need for quarantine from people returning from amber list countries. That was a game changer. If we can do further refinements on testing, obviously we will look at that to reduce those burdens, but we also need to be mindful and vigilant against new variants coming in.”
“It’s been a very, very difficult time for the travel industry, we absolutely recognise that, that’s why we have done all we can to have those easements in place and reduce those restrictions as quickly as we can.” But he added that “arguably the biggest threat” facing the travel industry now was the emergence of a new variant.
While rules may be eased for fully vaccinated travellers, those who have not been jabbed could face tougher restrictions.
According to reports, they could be required to quarantine at home and be required to take two tests when arriving from a low-risk location under the new system.
It is anticipated that people arriving from red list countries will continue to be required to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel, at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.
There are currently 62 countries on that list but this is expected to be reduced.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said earlier this week that 24 countries “should be taken off”, including Pakistan, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Chile.
Coronavirus data analyst Tim White said: “With Grant Shapps and the travel lottery, no-one can be sure. But the data firmly support Turkey being removed as it has no threat of variants and a lot of genomic sequencing.”
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.”Internet Explorer Channel Network