New rule comes in for holidaymakers to use lateral flow tests instead of PCR

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Holidaymakers coming back to England from non-red list countries can from today use the lateral flow test instead of the more expensive PCR version.

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The government is appreciating a “huge boost” for the travel industry, with people from 4 am on Sunday using lateral flow testing on or before two days after their return.

Lateral flow tests for international travel must be purchased from a private provider as the NHS test and trace lateral flow test cannot be used for international travel.


Bookings for lateral flow tests opened on Friday and can be purchased through empaneled private providers GOV.UK.

As of Saturday afternoon, there were 25 providers on the official website and prices ranged from £19 to £39.

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The government said passengers would have to send a photo of their test results to a private provider, failing to do so could result in a £1,000 fine.

Those who test positive will need to undergo a free NHS confirmatory PCR test and isolate.

Anyone traveling to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man must comply with the rules for testing and quarantining in those places for 10 days after arrival in England.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I am delighted that from today eligible travelers traveling to England who have had a life-saving Covid-19 vaccine can benefit from an inexpensive lateral flow test, which provides rapid results. We do.

“This huge boost to the travel industry and the public will make it easier and cheaper for people to book holidays and travel abroad, and this is possible because of our incredible vaccine programme.

“Whoever tests positive should do a PCR test which, if positive, can be genomically sequenced to check for variants and help us fight this virus.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Changes to the rules for post-arrival tests will give commuters more options and faster results, just in case for many half-baked vacations.

“It is thanks to the success of our vaccination program that we can make this switch, providing a much-needed boost to industry and consumers.”

Dr Jenny Harris, Chief Executive of the UK Health Protection Agency (UKHSA), said: “Testing and self-isolating if you are positive are important steps in managing the pandemic and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

“It is also important that those who have a positive lateral flow test on their return to England get it tested through NHS Test and Trace PCR.

“That way we can continue to monitor for new variants and stay on top of the virus.”


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