UK relaxes Covid test rules in time for school holidays

The change comes into effect on October 24, the day the half-term break begins

Fully vaccinated travellers and tourists arriving in England from non-red list countries will be able to take cheaper Covid tests from October 24, the British government has announced.

The move is aimed at simplifying travel for international passengers and UK families, as the industry looks to rebound from the pandemic that grounded airlines and caused jobs losses across the tourism sector.

The government said that from October 24, most under-18s arriving from countries not on the red list could take a lateral flow test on or before Day 2 of their arrival, rather than the more expensive PCR lab test.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the changes would be introduced in time for the school half-term holidays, which start on October 24.

“Today's rule changes will make testing on arrival simpler and cheaper for people across the country who are looking forward to well-earned breaks for this October half-term,” Mr Shapps said.

“Taking away expensive mandatory PCR testing will boost the travel industry and is a major step forward in normalising international travel and encouraging people to book holidays with confidence.”

Lateral flow tests are cheaper and provide a faster result.

Passengers must use tests bought from a private provider listed on the government's website, rather than free ones available as part of the government Test and Trace scheme.

They must upload a photo of their test result and booking reference to verify the result.

“We want to make going abroad easier and cheaper, whether you're travelling for work or visiting friends and family,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said.

“Lateral flow tests will be available later this month for those returning from half-term holidays.

“This change to testing is only possible thanks to the incredible progress of our vaccination programme, which means we can safely open up travel as we learn to live with the virus.”

Anyone with a positive lateral flow test will be given a free PCR through the National Health Service to confirm the result and isolate themselves.

“It's progress but if you're fully jabbed you shouldn't need to take a test at all," said Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency.

“Testing measures are not only a faff for many but also amount to a tax on travel and put off people from booking with confidence, due to the higher costs.

“These barriers certainly won't help the travel sector to recover as quickly as it should by now."

Updated: October 14th 2021, 11:12 PM