COVID-19: Travel rules relaxed as cheaper lateral flow tests replace PCRs from today | Travel News

Coronavirus travel rules have been relaxed for those returning to England, allowing fully vaccinated holidaymakers to take cheaper lateral flow tests instead of PCRs.

The new rules came into force at 4am, just in time for the half-term holidays.

They mean people arriving in England from a non-red list country can use a lateral flow test instead of the more expensive PCR on or before day two.

However, the lateral flows must be purchased from a private provider – not those provided by NHS Test and Trace for everyday domestic use.

Everything you need to know as COVID travel rules change again

British Airways planes are seen at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London, Britain May 27, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Travellers returning to England are able to use lateral flow tests from Sunday

It follows backlash from members of the travel industry, who suggested the costly PCR tests were putting people off flying to non-red list countries.

There are 24 private providers for people to book lateral flow tests from listed on the coronavirus website, with prices ranging from £19 to £39.

According to the Department for Health, passengers need to send a photo of their test result to the private provider – travellers who fail to do so could be fined £1,000.

Anyone who tests positive will need to isolate and take a free PCR test from the NHS to confirm the result.

People travelling on to the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man in the 10 days after their arrival will need to follow the rules for testing and quarantine in those countries.

Lateral flow tests can be carried out at home
Lateral flow tests must be bought from a private provider

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I’m delighted that from today eligible travellers to England, who’ve had the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine can benefit from a cheaper lateral flow test, providing faster results.

“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 it is because of our incredible vaccine programme that this is possible.

“Anyone who tests positive must take a PCR test, which, if positive, may be genomically sequenced to check for variants and further help us fight this virus.”

Grant Shapps says requirements for lateral flow tests instead of PCRs should be in place for travellers by October half term
Grant Shapps hailed the UK’s vaccine rollout

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added: “The change in rules for post-arrival tests will give passengers more options and faster results, just in time for many half-term holidays.

“It’s thanks to the success of our vaccination programme that we can make this switch, giving the industry and consumers a much-needed boost.”

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Testing and self-isolating if you are positive remain crucial steps to managing the pandemic and stopping the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

“It is also critical that those who have positive lateral flow tests when returning to England go on to get this checked through a NHS test and trace PCR. This way we can continue to monitor new variants and stay on top of the virus.”

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Travel UK news live: Covid lateral flow tests go on sale as Australia announces steps toward reopening

Lateral flow tests, also known as antigen tests, have become available to pre-order ahead of the switch from PCR tests for vaccinated travellers, permitted from Sunday.

The change was announced by the UK government on 14 October, and planned to happen in time for families returning from half-term holidays in the next two weeks.

The government website lists suppliers with prices starting as low as £1. But research by The Independent shows the cheapest tests are accompanied by onerous terms and conditions. In all cases when clicking through, travellers are presented initially with much more expensive options.

In other news, Australia has confirmed several steps towards its reopening to international travel – most significantly, the state of Victoria has announced that it will scrap quarantine for vaccinated international arrivals from 1 November.

The country is planning to open only to Singapore in a “travel bubble” arrangement initially, then to further countries in Asia and Australasia before Christmas.

Follow the latest travel news below:


How does the new lateral flow tests system work?

From Sunday, vaccinated travellers into the UK (and some unvaccinated under 18s) can book a cheaper lateral flow or antigen test around travel, rather than the more costly PCRs.

Privately manufactured lateral flow test kits are now available to book, with the UK government publishing an approved list on the website.

In terms of travel out of the UK, several countries also allow an antigen test result as part of their entry requirements, so the newly-vetted private lateral flow tests could also be used for this function.

However, this varies from destination to destination, so please check individual travel advice for each trip to ensure an antigen test is appropriate.

But how does the new travel testing system work, and what does this mean for unvaccinated passengers?

Here’s everything we know:

Lucy Thackray22 October 2021 12:45


Ask Simon Calder your travel questions before 1pm

Concerned about what Morocco’s ban on the UK means for other holiday destinations? Want a steer on what may chance in next week’s travel update?

The Independent’s travel expert Simon Calder will be on hand to answer your travel questions at 1pm today.

Whether it’s advice on trips booked or in the works for this autumn and winter, long-range predictions for the travel industry or something entirely different, Simon will do his best to answer as many of you queries as he can between 1 and 2pm.

Submit your questions in the comments section of this article:

Lucy Thackray22 October 2021 12:20


Antigen tests from as little as £1 – but what’s the catch?

Travellers returning to England from abroad are now able to book cheaper lateral flow tests rather than PCRs. For fully vaccinated international arrivals from Sunday 24 October, the cost of the so-called “day two” test for travellers is set to fall.

Announcing the change, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “Taking away expensive mandatory PCR testing will boost the travel industry and is a major step forward in normalising international travel and encouraging people to book holidays with confidence.”

The government website lists suppliers with prices starting as low as £1. But research by The Independent shows the cheapest tests are accompanied by onerous terms and conditions. In all cases when clicking through, travellers are presented initially with much more expensive options.

Simon Calder22 October 2021 12:01


Good morning

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s liveblog, where we’ll be sharing all the latest updates.

Lucy Thackray22 October 2021 11:58

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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas tests positive for Covid-19

“Secretary Mayorkas tested positive this morning for the COVID-19 virus after taking a test as part of routine pre-travel protocols,” Espinosa said in a statement. “Secretary Mayorkas is experiencing only mild congestion; he is fully vaccinated and will isolate and work at home per CDC protocols and medical advice. Contact tracing is underway.”

Mayorkas had been scheduled to travel to Colombia this week along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, but he is now working from home. While in Bogotá, Blinken was scheduled to co-lead a meeting among government officials to address migration issues with regional partners.
This is at least the second time Covid-19 has interrupted Mayorkas’ work schedule since taking office. In July, Mayorkas worked virtually after coming in close contact with a DHS employee who later tested positive for Covid-19. At the time, he had no symptoms and tested negative twice.
The secretary traveled to Mexico earlier this month and has participated in several in-person events in recent weeks. He attended an outdoor cybersecurity event last week and on Saturday, appeared at a Peace Officers Memorial Service where he stood outside alongside President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

A White House official told CNN that “no White House principal has been determined to be a close contact of Secretary Mayorkas, given that the most recent contact was at the outdoors FOP event outside of the 48-hour close contact window.”

The news of Mayorkas’ positive test comes weeks after Biden imposed stringent new vaccine rules on federal workers, large employers and health care staff in an attempt to contain the latest surge of Covid-19.
A key provision in the plan is directing the Labor Department to require all businesses with 100 or more employees ensure their workers are either vaccinated or tested once a week.
The President also signed an executive order requiring all government employees be vaccinated against Covid-19, with no option of being regularly tested to opt out, as well as an accompanying order directing the same standard be applied to employees of contractors who do business with the federal government.

DHS is working to comply with Biden’s executive order by November 22, a DHS spokesperson previously told CNN.

The department developed an online tool for personnel to report their vaccination status, a system that is available to all DHS employees other than the US Secret Service and US Coast Guard, which have their own reporting systems.

Although, DHS declined to release department-wide interim vaccinate rate data, some of the agencies within the department have shared progress on workforce vaccinations.

As of Tuesday, 89.1% of the Coast Guard’s active duty workforce has been fully vaccinated, and 92.9% of the active duty workforce has been vaccinated with at least one dose, according to US Coast Guard media relations deputy LCDR Brittany Panetta.

Mayorkas and the department have also been heavily involved in the management of border travel needs and restrictions amid the pandemic.

Earlier this month, the administration announced plans to ease restrictions on cross-border travel for fully vaccinated visitors starting in early November, relaxing bans that have been in place for more than 18 months.

The new rules, which are similar to those announced for international air passengers, will be rolled out in a phased approach. The first phase, kicking off in early November, will allow fully vaccinated visitors traveling for non-essential reasons, like visiting friends or for tourism, to cross US land borders. The second phase, starting in early January 2022, will apply the vaccination requirement to all inbound foreign travelers, whether traveling for essential or non-essential reasons.

“These new vaccination requirements deploy the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of Covid-19 and will create a consistent, stringent protocol for all foreign nationals traveling into the United States whether by land or air,” a senior administration official previously told reporters.

This story has been updated with additional reporting Tuesday.

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins contributed to this report.

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UK Replaces Post-Travel PCR Tests With Cheaper Rapid Testing Option

The British government just announced that fully vaccinated (and most under-18) travelers arriving in the United Kingdom (U.K.) from non-red-list countries will soon be able to use cheaper lateral flow tests (LFTs) instead of PCR tests to fulfill their post-arrival COVID-19 testing requirements.

The U.K.’s entry rules require that post-arrival tests be booked prior to boarding a U.K.-bound flight, and taken as soon as possible upon passengers’ arrival or a maximum of 48 hours after their entry into the country.


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Reopening from COVID-19

The new LFT option will become available on October 24, and travelers can begin booking them from October 22, according to a government press release. The list of approved LFt testing private providers will also go live on on October 22, including convenient testing centers located in some airports.

Not only are LFTs cheaper, but they offer faster results. Visitors will need to take a photo of their lateral flow test and send it back to their chosen provider, along with their booking reference information, for verification of their results.

Because the change will come just in time for U.K. residents returning from their half-term breaks, it was noted that NHS ‘Test and Trace’ tests cannot be used to fulfill international travel requirements.

Any individuals who test positive will need to self-isolate and take a PCR test to confirm their results.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We want to make going abroad easier and cheaper, whether you’re traveling for work or visiting friends and family. Lateral flow tests will be available later this month for those returning from half-term holidays. This change to testing is only possible thanks to the incredible progress of our vaccination program, which means we can safely open up travel as we learn to live with the virus.”

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, said: “Today’s rule changes will make testing on arrival simpler and cheaper for people across the country who are looking forward to well-earned breaks for this October half term. Taking away expensive mandatory PCR testing will boost the travel industry and is a major step forward in normalizing international travel and encouraging people to book holidays with confidence.”

Dr. Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: “Testing, along with vaccines, remains one of our first lines of defense against COVID-19. Getting a test as early as possible on arrival, and isolation when necessary, can help control the spread of the virus and protect one another.”

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At-home COVID-19 tests in high demand for events, travel, school requirements

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Demand for at-home COVID-19 tests is climbing in Northeast Ohio, as more venues and events require a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination for admission.

The increased demand has brought concerns of possible shortages of the rapid at-home tests, said Dr. Christine Schmotzer, vice chair of system pathology operations at University Hospitals.

Tests have sold out online and at pharmacies across the country. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in September that the temporary shortage of rapid tests could lead to more demand for lab-based testing.

Schmotzer said medical experts aren’t concerned about testing availability for people who have COVID-19 symptoms and need them for medical evaluation or medical procedures at a hospital.

“What has led to kind of this burden on the system is an increased number of places requiring either vaccination or a negative test to go to an event or for some travel,” Schmotzer said. “So that’s the group that might be a little bit more at-risk by the potential decreases in availability of the rapid tests.”

Most of the at-home tests are antigen tests and are not as accurate compared to the PCR tests. Schmotzer said the antigen tests need more of a viral load to detect whether someone is positive. She noted an antigen test is most reliable when people are showing symptoms of COVID-19. A PCR test, though, can detect a positive result at a lower viral load.

Schmotzer emphasized the importance of getting a good nasal swab and following the instructions on the test kit in a previous story with Also, it’s best to test 3 to 7 days after a COVID exposure or within the first few days after the onset of symptoms for best accuracy.

The delta variant swept through the nation during the late summer, causing an increased number of hospitalizations and deaths. And though data shows case rates are decreasing, thousands of cases are still coming daily in Ohio.

In addition to the pharmacies, folks can also pick up tests for free at branches in the Cuyahoga County Public Library and Cleveland Public Library systems — as long as they’re in stock.

The Ohio Department of Health has been providing free BinaxNow at-home tests to libraries, local health departments, schools and universities and other community partners, Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Alicia Shoults wrote in an email.

Shoults said the state originally bought 2 million tests, and last week the controlling board approved the purchase of an additional 1 million tests, with an option to buy 400,000 at-home tests per month through June 2022.

The tests have been flying off the shelves at libraries, and it’s important people call ahead to make sure tests are available, said Rob Rua, a spokesman for Cuyahoga County Public Library. Rua said 11 branches in the library system are distributing the at-home tests through their drive-through windows where book service is typically done, and the goal is to soon implement curbside service for branches that don’t have a drive-through window.

He said some people have needed multiple kits, as they may have multiple children and parents may need to be tested as well due to potential exposure. Rua said as of Wednesday, the library system had distributed nearly 26,000 at-home tests.

Rua said the initial demand was quiet. “And then within the past month or so, it’s just been huge.”

Rua said the library initially would receive shipments of 2,000 at-home tests in the spring from the Ohio Department of Health, but this week the library received 16,000 tests.

Cleveland Public Library is experiencing similar high demand as people come downtown to pick up tests at the main library’s drive-through window, said Steve Wohl, the library system’s lending manager.

Before the delta variant’s surge, Wohl said the library was distributing 25-50 tests per week. But the week of Aug. 23, the library started seeing an uptick and handed out about 200 tests. Wohl said the number of tests provided “has been growing exponentially from there.”

He said demand has been from Cleveland Metropolitan School District parents and students, as well as from people attending weddings, concerts and sporting events.

The at-home tests are increasingly needed, particularly for people who need a result relatively quickly. President Joe Biden’s administration invoked the Defense Production Act in September to make 280 million rapid tests available, according to Kaiser Health News.

The administration also completed a deal with Walmart, Amazon and Kroger for the retailers to sell tests for “up to 35 percent less” than current prices for three months. People on Medicaid would have the at-home tests fully covered, Biden said.

BinaxNow at-home tests can be purchased at pharmacies such as CVS or Walgreens for $23.99. Still, tests like Ellume remain relatively expensive, particularly for families that would presumably need multiple tests. Ellume’s testing kit costs $38.99, so a family of four not on Medicaid would pay approximately $156.

Other testing options are still available, though, including at pharmacies like CVS.

Akron Children’s Hospital announced in a news release Wednesday that it’s starting drive-thru testing on its Akron campus for children, regardless of whether they’re patients or showing symptoms. Young adults up to age 26 still in the care of Akron Children’s Hospital can also receive a test, according to the release. Appointments are required and can be scheduled through MyChart.

Mercy Health’s Lorain branch said in a news release Tuesday that it has walk-in clinics at six locations for people seeking a COVID-19 test. The clinics are open seven days a week, and providers at the locations also offer “in-person and virtual visits to safely screen, isolate, and care for patients who may only be experiencing mild symptoms,” according to the release.

Shaker Heights Fire Department has also provided COVID-19 testing throughout the pandemic, partnering with MetroHealth. Nurses from the hospital come weekly to the fire station on Chagrin Boulevard to provide PCR tests at the drive-through clinic. Appointments are required, and people can make them through MetroHealth.

Sweeney said the fire station hasn’t seen a shortage of tests recently, and he said there are other places to go too if people look hard enough.

“I think if somebody is resourceful enough and they’re willing to look around a little bit, I think you can find stuff,” Sweeney said. “I know that there’s been some media attention and there’s been talk about tests are hard to find right now, but I think if you kind of dig in a little bit, you can get things taken care of. That’s been my most recent experience is with people getting stuff from the library, people making appointments at CVS.”

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Covid travel news live: Government to introduce charges for tests

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps explains the new travel rules as restrictions are eased

The government will end free provision of lateral flow tests within months in a move that has been criticised as “reckless” by public health chiefs.

Plans to introduce charges for the tests were buried in the government’s Covid winter plan, which was unveiled earlier this week by Sajid Javid, the health secretary.

The relaxation of travel rules is expected to fuel a surge in holiday bookings this weekend, as the amber list was scrapped in favour of a single list of places which will require hotel quarantine on return to England.

Meanwhile, a new tool has found certain groups remain more vulnerable to the virus after vaccination.

The QCovid tool developed by scientists at the University of Oxford shows that immunosuppressed people, and those with dementia, Parkinson’s or chronic disorders such as kidney disease are still at a greater risk of hospitalisation or death from Covid when vaccinated compared to the rest of the population.


That’s the end of The Independent’s live coverage of the pandemic for today, thank you all for following.

Make sure to check our site for more Covid stories as the day goes on. They will mostly be published on our health page.

Liam James18 September 2021 13:06


Travel surge expected, as firms see bookings spike

Holiday bookings are expected to soar after the Government announced a relaxation of international travel rules, but concerns have been raised over a changed approach to Covid-19 testing.

Alan French, chief executive of travel firm Thomas Cook, said October half-term bookings were up 200 per cent compared to August and he expected this figure to increase as a result of the changed system.

“Based on our bookings already today, I would expect this weekend to be the biggest of the year so far as people take advantage of the great deals on offer, the new easier rules on testing and the simplified system for international travel,” he said.

Andrew Flintham, managing director of holiday company TUI UK, said he had already seen “an uptick in bookings for Turkey in October” and expected a boost in customer confidence with the new rules.

Online travel agency Skyscanner said it saw a 133 per cent spike in traffic in the 30 minutes following Mr Shapps’s announcement, while there had been “huge increases” in searches for destinations such as Turkey and the Maldives in anticipation of Friday’s news.

Liam James18 September 2021 07:49


New tool identifies groups most at-risk from Covid after vaccination

Scientists at Oxford university have developed a new tool that predicts which groups are most at risk from Covid-19 after vaccination.

The QCovid tool found that immunosuppressed people and those with dementia, Parkinson’s or chronic disorders such as kidney disease were found to be at a greater risk of hospitalisation or death from Covid after vaccination compared to the rest of the population.

Age and ethnicity also factored into risk outcomes.

Samuel Lovett, Science Correspondent, has the details:

Liam James18 September 2021 08:08


Travel rule change ‘will make it much easier for customers to understand’

Chris Parker, director of capacity and commercial performance at DFDS ferries, said his company welcomed the change to the travel rules system.

“It will make it much easier for customers to understand what they need to do,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

There was a spike in visitors to the DFDS website yesterday, Mr Parker said, and an “uptick” in bookings for October onwards.

Mr Parker estimated the ferry company had this year seen only 20 per cent of the number of bookings seen in 2019.

Liam James18 September 2021 08:25


UK aviation much slower to recover than rest of Europe, says industry chief

Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said UK aviation was recovering from the pandemic far slower than in most other European countries.

Passenger numbers in the UK were only around 20 per cent of a normal summer, while the rest of Europe was seeing around 50-60 per cent, Ms Dee told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“That’s all down to the complexities we’ve built in the UK in the testing system,” she said.

Ms Dee also said this summer had been worse than last year’s for aviation.

Liam James18 September 2021 08:37


Singapore pauses reopening amid rise in Covid cases

Singapore reported 935 new Covid cases on Friday, the country’s highest daily total since last April.

The city state has paused the lifting of restrictions as cases have risen. More than 80 per cent of the population has been vaccinated.

Liam James18 September 2021 08:55


New travel changes: What are they, and what are the effects?

Simon Calder, Travel Correspondent, has put together a guide to the new travel system.

In his opinion, there are two “modest positives” to the changes:

Liam James18 September 2021 09:13


Scotland won’t ditch pre-flight tests

The Scottish government has said it will also be making changes to travel rules.

The traffic light system will be dropped but Scotland will not follow England in removing the pre-departure test requirement for the fully vaccinated returning from non-red list countries, the government said.

Michael Matheson, the transport secretary, said there were “concerns” that dropping the test would “weaken our ability to protect the public health of Scotland’s communities”.

Liam James18 September 2021 09:32


Charges to be introduced for Covid lateral flow tests within ‘months’ in ‘reckless’ move

The free provision of lateral flow tests will end within months, the government has announced.

No date has been set for the introduction of charges, but the winter plan unveiled by Sajid Javid, the health secretary, says the tests will only remain free for “the coming months”.

Public health chiefs and school leaders have united in criticising the “reckless” move.

More on this from Rob Merrick here:

Liam James18 September 2021 09:50


India has vaccinated more than 790 million

More than 790 million people in India have now been vaccinated, a figure higher than the total population of Europe.

A vaccination drive in the country to mark prime minister Narendra Modi’s birthday saw 25 million doses administered on Friday alone, according to the Indian Health Ministry.

Officials say they aim to have administered more than one billion doses by the middle of next month.

Liam James18 September 2021 10:09

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Covid news: Expensive travel PCR tests ‘to be axed for double-jabbed holidaymakers’


xpensive PCR Covid tests may be binned for fully vaccinated holidaymakers on their return to the UK, according to reports.

Now NHS’ free lateral flow tests could replace the expensive PCR test which is currently required on the second day after arrival and can cost more than £100, according to The Mail On Sunday.

This would save families hundreds of pounds when booking a holiday.

Covid tests before leaving Britain also may be dropped.

Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove will reportedly be in talks over the plans this week.

Live updates


Travellers returning to Wales to be able to use private Covid testing


China reports 46 new Covid-19 cases, up from 25 a day earlier

China reported 46 new Covid-19 cases on the mainland for September 11, up from 25 a day earlier, the national health authority said on Sunday.

Twenty of the new infections were locally transmitted and the rest imported, the National Health Commission said.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, was 44, up from 21 the day before. Of the new cases, 18 were local.

Mainland China has confirmed 95,199 Covid-19 cases, with the death toll unchanged at 4,636.


Johnson set to announce winter Covid plan with focus on vaccinations

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