Britons to Be Forced to Pay for Covid Tests to Go on Holiday

Passengers wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, arrive at Heathrow airport, west London, on July 10, 2020. - The British government on Friday revealed the first exemptions from its coronavirus quarantine, with arrivals from Germany, France, Spain and Italy no longer required to self-isolate from …
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

People in England can start thinking about foreign holidays, the transport minister has said. However, there will be mandated covid tests and potentially costly quarantining on return from higher coronavirus-risk nations.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC on Friday that international travel for holidays could resume no earlier than May 17th, and that terms for holidaymakers returning — i.e., whether they need to self-isolate at home or quarantine at a hotel — would be dependent on where the nation is classified in the government’s new ‘traffic light’ system.

Mr Shapps told Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is the first time I’m able to come on and say I’m not advising against booking foreign holidays.

“Yes, you’ll want to check what the situation is in two or three weeks’ time when that list — the green, amber, red, is produced — you’ll want to know that you’ve got good holiday insurance and flexible flights and the rest of it.”

In the following weeks, the government will categorise holiday destination nations from green to red, with red countries requiring the harshest restrictions for reentry.

Those arriving from green-list nations may not need to self-isolate on their return to the UK. However, they will need to take a test before departure and a PCR test on their return, and if positive, travellers will have to isolate.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests, which need to be sent to a laboratory to test for new variants of the Chinese virus, can cost an estimated £120 a person — meaning nearly £500 extra added to the cost of a family holiday for four.

The Telegraph reports that even those who have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will still have to be tested on return because the government is reportedly concerned about new variants entering the country.

Amber country travellers will need to self-isolate at home for ten days on arrival, take the pre-departure test, and two PCR tests on days two and eight.

Red nation visitors will also have to take a pre-departure test, two PCR tests on days two and eight, and spend ten days quarantined in a government-approved hotel, which would substantially add to the cost of the holiday, at an estimated cost of up to £1,750 per person.

Sky News reports that holidaymakers must book their test packages in advance from government-approved suppliers.

Ministers are said to be looking at talking with industry to lower the costs of the tests and possibly later replacing them altogether with cheaper lateral flow swab tests, which can give results in around 30 minutes and do not need to be sent to a lab.

The plans saw backlash from the travel industry and MPs when revealed on Thursday night, with concerns that the costs would be prohibitively expensive.

Conservative MP Henry Smith, who represents some 100 cross-party lawmakers in the Commons and Lords from the Future of Aviation Group, said: “I remain concerned that this is unduly burdensome and costly for the average passenger.

“It won’t provide confidence for travellers to book up holidays from May 17. I think this will seriously impinge upon an aviation and travel revival, certainly for this spring and probably into summer.”

Reports from February claimed the government was working on immunity passports for international travel, which The Telegraph said could be used to bypass some of the hurdles to British holidaymakers. Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that vaccine certification for international travel was nothing new and would be “a feature of our life in the future”.

Currently, non-essential foreign travel is forbidden. In early March, the government rolled out rules that demanded those wishing to undertake international travel complete a lockdown exemption form to leave the country. Failure to provide the document when demanded for inspection at airports could result in a £200 fine.

This week, reports revealed that despite Britons currently being banned from non-essential international travel, some 8,000 foreign tourists are arriving in the country every day.

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