“Measures to simplify international travel” will be announced later, the transport secretary has confirmed.
Grant Shapps said the forthcoming changes would “reduce costs, take advantage of higher levels of vaccination, and keep us all safe”.
Ministers are considering scrapping the requirement for double-jabbed people returning to the UK to need PCR tests.
The “traffic light” system for overseas travel could also be simplified, with the amber list removed entirely.
Any changes would apply to England initially, as the UK’s devolved administrations are in charge of their own travel rules.
Cabinet ministers are understood to have discussed the move ahead of the announcement by Mr Shapps.
I’ll set out measures to simplify international travel later today in order to reduce costs, take advantage of higher levels of vaccination, and keep us all safe. ✈️🚢🚆
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) September 17, 2021
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
No 10 hinted Mr Shapps would announce an easing of restrictions following “steady progress” in containing Covid.
Asked about whether the changes were likely to be permanent, a Downing Street spokesman cautioned that “the pandemic is still ongoing and there is always the chance of unexpected challenges, such as an even more transmissible or more deadly variant emerging”.
But he said the success of the vaccine rollout “is enabling us to move steadily and remove restrictions, as you saw when we came out of Step 4”, referring to the widespread lifting of restrictions across England on 19 July.
“I think it would be wrong to rule out anything in the future but it is important to note that we continue to make steady progress to ease restrictions, and that is very much the intention of the approach we will be taking.”
Meanwhile, the Guardian and the Times have reported that dozens of countries will be removed from the red list – the highest level of alert for international travel which means returning travellers must spend 11 nights in hotel quarantine at a cost of £2,285.
Currently, travellers who are not fully vaccinated are required to quarantine upon returning to the UK from an amber list destination.
By removing the amber category, only passengers arriving from red list countries would have to quarantine in a government-approved hotel.
Ministers have also been under pressure to reconsider the testing requirements for travellers – with the industry and holidaymakers hoping for the change ahead of the October half-term holiday.
Under current rules, people arriving from green list countries must take a Covid test shortly before their return and submit a PCR test on their second day back in the UK.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK told the BBC that testing requirements were preventing the UK travel industry from competing with European rivals.
He also warned that thousands of jobs could be at stake if restrictions remain while furlough support ends.
Don’t forget to check the rules at your destination
If you plan to travel abroad, check carefully the Covid rules where you are going.
- Malta – everyone aged 12 and over must be fully vaccinated to enter
- Portugal – the rules for the mainland are different to those for Madeira or the Azores
- France – you need an essential reason to enter if you are not fully vaccinated
- Italy – you must self-isolate for 5 days if you have not been fully vaccinated
- US – it is not possible for most British nationals to enter
Huw Merriman, Conservative chairman of the Commons Transport Select Committee, said PCR tests were expensive and “putting people off travel” while the rapid lateral flow tests were “just as safe”. The NHS charges £68 for a lab-processed PCR test.
Fully vaccinated people should only need a PCR test as confirmation if their lateral flow test came back positive, he said.
One justification for requiring PCR tests is that they can be used for gene sequencing and tracking coronavirus variants.
But Mr Merriman said just 5% of positive tests were sequenced in July, adding that people were being “ripped off”.
Alan McNally, professor of Microbial Evolutionary Genomics at the University of Birmingham, said lateral flow testing would be “sufficient” for travellers given the UK’s high Covid rate, but argued it was “vitally important” that genome-level surveillance of travel-related Covid cases continued.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I would really hope that there will be very strong mandate that any [lateral flow] tests from travel have to get a confirmatory PCR test.”
He said past experiences and the emergence of the Delta variant showed that travel-related Covid cases were a “very high risk” to the UK and could cause “big trouble” if they were not being monitored.
With countries such as those in the EU, there is a greater degree of confidence that variants are being reported and vaccination records are accurate, he said. But he said in others it may be less certain.
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