Will PCRs be scrapped and replaced with lateral flow test as part of UK travel requirements?

By Sarah Howells

A reliance on Covid-19 PCR tests for travellers is set to be phased out before the October half term.

The new changes announced by ministers will see PCR tests phased out in a move which could save travellers hundreds-of-pounds.

Currently anyone returning to the UK has to take a PCR test on day-two of their return home.

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But the changes will see this replaced instead with a lateral flow test, which is less expensive and provides a quicker result.

It comes after the government scrapped the traffic light system in favour of a red and non-red list of countries, opening up travel options.

So what is happening to travel rules - and when will these changes take place?

Will PCR tests be scrapped?

The current rules for anyone who is fully vaccinated are that before you travel to England you must book and pay for a Covid-19 test on day two after your arrival.

Passengers also need to complete a passenger location form in the 48 hours before arriving in the country.

Double-jabbed travellers no longer need to take a PCR test before returning home but non-vaccinated travellers do.

But the new rules coming into effect will also see the day-two tests replaced with quicker, lateral flow tests.

There is currently no deadline for when the PCR tests will be phased out but the government expects this to be before the October half term.

Anyone visiting the UK from a red-list country has to book and pay for a quarantine hotel package, regardless of their vaccine status.

Is the PCR test going to be replaced with lateral flow test?

The government’s plan is to replace the day-two PCR test with a lateral flow test instead.

This will provide quicker results and also save money for travellers, making international travel a more accessible option.

What is the difference between the PCR and lateral flow test?

There are two main types of test to check if you have coronavirus - a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and a lateral flow test.

Generally, PCR tests are used for people with symptoms of Covid and are sent to a lab to be checked.

They directly screen for the presence of antigens which can be detectable in the body before symptoms present.

Lateral flow tests are more often used by people who do not have symptoms and give a quick result - usually within 20 minutes.

They are also an antigen test but can be less accurate than a PCR test.

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