England to ditch PCR travel tests for green and amber list countries

Health minister Sajid Javid says controversial vaccine passport scheme will also be abolished

Travellers to the UK will soon have one less test to worry about. Reuters
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Travellers to the UK from green and amber list countries will soon no longer be required to take a PCR test, UK Health Minister Sajid Javid said on Sunday.

He also revealed controversial plans for a vaccine passport for entry to nightclubs and some larger events would also be scrapped.

“We have got a huge number of defences; of course we still want to remain very cautious, and there are some things that - when it comes to travel for example - there are some rules that are going to have to remain in place,” Mr Javid told Sky News.

“But the PCR that is required upon your return to the UK from certain countries, look, I want to try and get rid of that as soon as I possibly can.”

He said he was mindful of the exorbitant costs of the test and that testing measures should not be in place “for a second longer than is absolutely necessary".

Under current UK travel guidelines, travellers from green and amber list countries - which include the UAE - have to take a PCR test on the second day of their arrival in England.

The cost of these tests has been a source of discontent for the ailing UK travel sector. It has complained for months that they are too expensive and are deterring prospective holidaymakers.

Currently, an NHS coronavirus test for international travel costs £68 ($94), down from £88 previously.

The system has also prompted allegations of malpractice, with many travellers claiming they have been exploited by private testing companies.

The concerns stirred the UK government into announcing a “rapid internal review” last month - and it would appear the conclusion has been that removing the requirement to test altogether is the easiest of means of foiling unscrupulous testers.

England scraps vaccine passports plan

PCR tests for international travellers were not the only items the health minister on Sunday enunciated a desire to abolish. He said plans to make vaccine passports a condition of entry to nightclubs and other large events in England would be scrapped too.

“I'm pleased to say we will not be going ahead with the plans,” he told the BBC.

He said that having looked at the evidence, their implementation would have been “for the sake of it".

The proposal to introduce a mandatory Covid pass at the end of September had been met with fierce opposition from the government's own MPs, in the Covid Recovery Group, as well as from opposition politicians.

The leader of Liberal Democrats party had called them “divisive, unworkable and expensive".

Businesses in the night-time economy had also criticised the scheme, with the Night Time Industries Association warning it would “cripple the industry".

"I've never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers or something to do what is just an everyday activity
Sajid Javid, UK health minister

This was rebuffed last Sunday by UK Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi who told the BBC vaccine passports were the best way to ensure the night-time economy remained open.

A week is a long time time in politics, however, and despite his government's U-turn, Mr Javid said it had been right vaccine passports were considered.

“I've never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers or something to do what is just an everyday activity, but we were right to properly look at it,” he said.

England's decision to abolish Covid passes for nightclubs and larger events sets it apart from northern neighbour Scotland which is pressing ahead with plans to introduce them from October.

A decision in Wales will be made next week while Northern Ireland currently has no plans to introduce them.

Updated: September 12, 2021, 11:30 AM