Fully-vaccinated travellers will be able to ditch expensive PCR tests from the end of October – but they will still have to take a cheaper test
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Covid tests are to become a permanent fixture of foreign holidays to identify dangerous new variants entering Britain.
From the end of October, double vaxxed travellers will be able to take £30 lateral flow tests instead of expensive PCRs.
Anyone with a positive result will need a confirmatory free PCR which will be genomically sequenced to find new variants.
But viral geneticist Aris Katzourakis, of Oxford University, warned the new system will not stop new and potentially more lethal strains of Corona getting in.
He said: “PCR tests are better at tracking variants but if you don’t get the result until days after you arrive in the UK you could still be spreading the virus.”
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And Independent SAGE virologist Professor Deenan Pillay, of University College London, said doctors and nurses should conduct the tests.
He added: ”The way testing for return travellers has been set up is a complete disaster.
“It is important that testing continues but it should be undertaken by the NHS.”
Under the new system, the double-jabbed will not have to take a lateral flow test three days before returning home, but two days after.
Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon said: “PCR tests play a crucial role in identifying variants.
“Ministers must now set out exactly how they will continue this surveillance.
“They must ensure we do not see a repeat of the failings that allowed the Delta variant to spread rapidly.”
Government scientists have now sequenced more than 860,000 PCR tests – nearly a quarter of all those worldwide.
It allows them to spot gene mutations in the virus and target areas where surge testing is needed along with beefing up contact tracing.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Every single test sequenced helps us to learn more about this awful virus and brings us a step closer to defeating it.”
That means overseas travellers and returning holidaymakers will need to continue testing unless Covid is eradicated globally.
Chief Scientist for Genomics England Professor Sir Mark Caulfield said: “We’re in a race against the clock.”
And Health and Safety Authority boss Jenny Harries added: “As we continue to a way of life that feels more familiar, sequencing genomes will become even more important.”
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