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The UK government aims to relax the testing requirements for international travellers coming to England before schools’ midterm break, which will boost the travel industry reeling from the spread of Covid-19, the transport secretary has said.

The rules will be updated before schools are due to have a week’s half-term holiday from October 26, with an announcement expected in the coming days. The government had said it will change the rules at the end of this month.

“The travel industry, which has been into this crisis first [and] out last, in many ways has suffered hugely — that’s a lot of jobs on the line,” Grant Shapps told Sky News on Friday.

“We are still requiring a test [but] we’re going to move that down from being a PCR test, the expensive ones that you have to send away to a lab, to a lateral flow test,” he added.

Concern has been raised that the removal of PCR tests, which enable genomic sequencing, may make it harder to track the spread of variant strains of Covid-19.

However, Shapps said the rules were supplemented by additional requirements.

“Reassuringly, if you come back from somewhere, you do a lateral flow, you get a positive, then you’ll be able to get a free NHS PCR test in the normal way,” he said.

The transport secretary also welcomed the relaxation of restrictions on travel from the UK to the US, while the US is yet to reopen to British visitors.

“The big one we’re waiting for in November . . . the US has said that they’ll reopen to British visitors,” said Shapps. However, he was unable to provide a specific date for the rule change.

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