UK Covid news LIVE: Travel review expected to make major changes to red list and PCR test requirements

LIVE – Updated at 10:30

© Getty Images When is the next UK travel review 020821

The government is expected to announce major changes to the UK’s Covid travel rules later today amid reports that dozens of countries will be removed from the red list.

There is speculation the red list, effectively banning international travel to 62 countries, could be halved, with holiday hotspots such as Turkey as well as destinations like Pakistan and Kenya opened up in time for the school half-term break in October.

A key question for holidaymakers will be whether ministers will scrap the requirement for fully-vaccinated people to take PCR tests after arriving back in the UK.

However Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister George Eustice told Sky News this morning: “My understanding is no decisions have actually been taken yet, although I understand there may be a meeting today to review this.”

PPE worth £2.8bn is not fit for purpose, health minister admits

10:30 , Tom Ambrose

Personal protective equipment (PPE) worth £2.8 billion is not fit for purpose and cannot be used by the NHS, a health minister has revealed.

Lord Bethell said 1.9 billion items of stock are currently in the “do not supply” to the NHS category.

He was answering a Parliamentary question from crossbencher Lord Alton of Liverpool around “faulty PPE” that has not met the required level of protection.

“As of June 10, 1.9 billion items of stock were in the ‘do not supply’ category,” Lord Bethell said.

“This is equivalent to 6.2% of purchased volume with an estimated value of £2.8 billion.

“We are considering options to repurpose and recycle items in this category which ensures safety and value for money.

“Discussions with suppliers are ongoing.”

Earlier this month, it emerged the Government is in dispute with several companies over £1.2 billion of PPE that has been deemed “sub-standard” or was undelivered.

Cambodia vaccinating 6-to-11-year-olds before schools reopen

10:06 , Tom Ambrose

Cambodia began vaccinating 6-to-11-year-olds Friday so students can safely return to schools that have been closed for months due to the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Hun Sen inaugurated the campaign to vaccinate the children, speaking live on state television and his Facebook page as his grandchildren and young family members of other senior officials were shown being given their jabs.

“To protect children’s health and their lives is our duty because we want to make sure that once they go back to their schools, these children and their teachers are safe from COVID-19,” Hun Sen declared.

Cambodia already has been vaccinating older children, and Hun Sen said he ordered health officials to study if children ages 3 to 5 can also be vaccinated. No date has been announced for schools to reopen.

09:38 , Tom Ambrose

Jonathan Athow, ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics, said: “Sales fell again in August, though not nearly as much as in July and, overall, remained above their pre-pandemic level.

“Other data suggest that the drop in food stores’ sales is linked to an increase in eating out following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.

“Meanwhile, motor fuel sales increased on the month as people ventured out more, but they remained below pre-pandemic levels.”

UK retail sales drop for fourth month in a row

09:22 , Tom Ambrose

UK retail sales dropped in August for the fourth consecutive month as grocery sales were impacted by more people returning to restaurants and pubs, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales volumes dropped by 0.9% last month, following a 2.8% fall in July.

However, retail sales volumes remain 4.6% ahead of pre-pandemic levels.

The drop in sales for August came as a surprise to analysts, who had forecast a 0.7% increase for the month.

It represents the first time since 1996 that retail sales have dropped for four months in a row.

08:49 , Tom Ambrose

A shadow minister said Labour has been “calling for ages” for ministers to scrap the amber travel list because it is poorly understood by the public.

Sarah Jones told Sky News: “We want travel to open up as safely and as quickly as possible.

“We’ve been calling for ages for the amber list to be scrapped, which has been touted in the papers today, because it always added to confusion – people never quite understood what the system was.

“And we’ve been calling for a proper process to work out an international vaccine passport so we can get people safely moving around.”

Asked whether she supports removing the requirement for the double vaccinated to take a pre-departure PCR test for those arriving in the UK, Ms Jones said: “I think we need to make it simpler, we need to make it clearer.

“People have been confused about what the rules are, they have been paying extortionate prices – we need to see what the Government is going to suggest and hopefully it will be based on evidence and, if it is, then we will support them.”

Long Covid symptoms in children rarely persist beyond 12 weeks, study suggests

08:14 , Tom Ambrose

Long Covid symptoms rarely persist beyond 12 weeks in children and adolescents unlike adults, new research suggests.

The review found existing studies on the condition in children and adolescents have major limitations.

Some do not show a difference in symptoms between those who have been infected with the virus and those who have not.

It comes as research from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Australia found that after 10 months in circulation, the Delta variant had not caused more serious disease in children than previous variants and most cases remained asymptomatic or mild.

08:11 , Tom Ambrose

Asked whether PCR tests could be scrapped in favour of lateral flow tests for foreign travellers, Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “I haven’t heard that because I’m not on that particular sub-committee that deals with this.

“They will want to consider all the evidence before taking a final decision.

“The rationale for the PCR test is that you can do genome sequencing of variants and you can, therefore, detect possible variants of concern.

“The difficulty with the lateral flow test, although it is cheaper and simpler to do, it is not able to pick up those variants.

“So, that’s the rationale and that’s been the rationale so far for making sure we keep some of that PCR testing in place.”

Mr Eustice said that Health Secretary Sajid Javid, while he did not want “unnecessary” testing taking place, “recognises the value of those PCR tests and that there “is a discussion to be had about this” in Government.

Eustice: Travel decisions could be signed off today

07:44 , Tom Ambrose

The Environment Secretary has said a Cabinet sub-committee meeting due to take place on Friday could sign off on travel rule changes.

The green and amber lists are expected to be merged to form one category of low-risk countries while the number of destinations on the red list will be reduced.

There is also speculation that fully-vaccinated arrivals will no longer need to take a pre-departure lateral flow test or a post-arrival PCR test.

George Eustice told Sky News: “My understanding is that no decisions have actually been taken yet, although I understand there may be a meeting today to review this. We regularly review those travel restrictions.

“Obviously we took an important step earlier this summer when we removed the need to quarantine for those countries coming from amber list countries – that was a really big step forward – but we have retained the need for testing, and that’s really so we can pick up any variants of concern through that PCR test.

“But, look, I know this has been raised by the travel industry, that they think some of that testing may be unnecessary, may be onerous – the Government will be listening to that and the Covid sub-committee of Cabinet that decide these things will be considering that probably later today.”

Travel review announcement expected

07:42 , Tom Ambrose

The government is expected to announce a shake-up of the UK’s Covid travel rules later amid reports that dozens of countries will be removed from the red list.

There is speculation the red list effectively banning international travel to 62 countries could be halved, with holiday hotspots such as Turkey as well as destinations like Pakistan and Kenya opened up in time for the school half-term break in October.

A key question for holidaymakers will be whether ministers will scrap the requirement for fully-vaccinated people to take PCR tests after arriving back in the UK.

© Provided by Evening Standard A plane takes off past the control tower at Heathrow Airport (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Archive)

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