From the end of October double- jabbed travellers will be able to take £30 lateral flow tests instead of expensive PCRs. Anyone with a positive result will need a confirmatory free PCR test
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Covid tests are to become a permanent fixture of foreign holidays to identify dangerous new variants entering Britain.
From the end of October double- jabbed travellers will be able to take £30 lateral flow tests instead of expensive PCRs.
Anyone with a positive result will need a confirmatory free PCR test which will be genomically sequenced to find new variants.
But viral geneticist Aris Katzourakis, of Oxford University, warned the new system will not stop new and potentially more lethal strains of Covid getting in.
He said PCR tests are better at tracking variants but without results until days after someone arrives in the UK the virus can still be spread.
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University College London virologist Professor Deenan Pillay, a member of the Independent Sage advice group, said: “The way testing for return travellers has been set up is a complete disaster.
“It is important that testing continues but it should be undertaken by the NHS.”
Under the new system the double-jabbed will not have to take a lateral flow test three days before returning home, but two days after.
Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon said: “PCR tests play a crucial role in identifying variants. Ministers must set out exactly how they’ll continue this surveillance.
“They must ensure we do not see a repeat of the failings that allowed the Delta variant to spread rapidly.”
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Yesterday the number of UK Covid-19 cases rose by 30,144 to 7,400,739, and deaths increased 164 to 135,147.
Government scientists have now sequenced more than 860,000 PCR tests – nearly a quarter of all those worldwide. This allows them to spot gene mutations in the virus and target areas where surge testing is needed along with beefing up contact tracing.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Every single test sequenced helps us to learn more about this awful virus and brings us a step closer to defeating it.”
That means overseas travellers and returning holidaymakers will need to continue testing unless Covid is eradicated globally.
Professor Sir Mark Caulfield, chief scientist for the Government’s Genomics England, said: “We’re in a race against the clock.”
And UK Health Security Agency chief executive Jenny Harries added that: “As we continue to a way of life that feels more familiar, sequencing genomes will become even more important.”