Scrap costly tests for those returning from 'green list' countries, Boris Johnson told
Costly tests for holidaymakers returning from "green list" countries must be abandoned, Tory MPs have told Boris Johnson.
The Prime Minister's global travel taskforce is due to announce on Friday that travellers from "safe" countries will have to take a gold standard PCR test on or before the second day of their return – a move that would add £480 to the cost of a holiday for a family of four.
This is said to be the preferred option, with holidaymakers allowed to use the cheaper rapid lateral flow tests only to confirm their Covid status before they leave their destination to return home.
The move comes despite Mr Johnson's pledge on Tuesday to make foreign travel "as easy as possible" by prioritising faster and cheaper tests for holidaymakers.
The two-test model, before and after arrival, is part of the Government's proposed traffic light system where only arrivals from "green list" countries will be exempt from having to quarantine for 10 days.
Scientific advisers say the PCR test on arrival is needed to ensure they can identify and stop the spread of any Covid variants that could undermine the effectiveness of the vaccination programme. However, Tory MPs claim it will make foreign travel "prohibitively expensive" and a preserve of the wealthy.
Henry Smith, the Conservative chairman of the all-party Future of Aviation Group, which is backed by 100 MPs and peers including 40 Tories, wrote to Mr Johnson on Wednesday urging him to abandon the "costly" testing plan.
He told The Telegraph: "I have just sent a letter to Downing Street looking for any testing to use some of the less expensive and burdensome tests that are available. Otherwise the costs will be prohibitive for many travellers. I am not necessarily against testing, but I do question the need for PCR tests. Any testing in terms of cost needs to be kept to a minimum, otherwise it is a big disincentive."
Graham Brady, the chairman of the powerful backbench 1922 Committee, said: "Countries will only be green listed when they are deemed safe to travel to for British residents.
"Requiring expensive testing as a condition of travel back to the UK would make the cost prohibitive for many people who need to travel to see family whom they haven't seen for over a year and would make the idea of foreign holidays for anyone but the wealthy entirely impractical."
Another senior Tory backbencher questioned why it was acceptable for people to take a lateral flow test to attend a live sporting event or visit a care home, but not when returning from a country deemed to have low Covid prevalence and high vaccination rates, such as Israel.
"Whatever the Government puts in place has got to exist in the real world. Many people cannot afford to spend hundreds of pounds extra on their holidays," he said. "If they are coming to and from a green country, we should absolutely keep any extra cost to a minimum and not force people out of what they have already paid for."
The Global Travel Taskforce report, due to be published on Friday, will base the traffic light ratings of countries on their vaccination rates, the risk from Covid variants, the prevalence of the virus and their capacity to genomically sequence the virus.
Amber countries will require quarantine for 10 days on return, with pre-departure and PCR tests on days two and eight, with an option for a test and release on day five. Hotel quarantine will be required for "red list" countries at a cost of up to £1,750 per person.
The Government hopes to resume foreign travel from May 17, but a final decision is unlikely to be made until potentially as late as the week before, May 10.
Ministers have urged people not to book their summer holidays yet – and on Monday suggested the May 17 date could be delayed because of the threat from variants in Europe and slow vaccine take-up rates.