The Welsh government has aligned with the rest of the UK by removing pre-departure tests for returning travellers from October 4 – but has not yet made a decision on the use of lateral flow tests in place of PCRs.
Until a decision is made, arrivals into Wales will still have to taken a PCR test on day 2 – rather than a cheaper and more accessible lateral flow test, which will be allowed in the rest of the UK from the end of October.
The Welsh announcement comes ten days after the UK government confirmed the changes for England, and the Scottish government’s decision to align with Westminster on Friday. Northern Ireland’s executive agreed to remove pre-departure testing from October 4 last week, but along with Wales is yet to decide on day 2 testing.
The devolved Welsh government is also considering which countries to expand the vaccine certification recognition system to over the coming weeks.
Eluned Morgan, Welsh minister for health and social services, said: “We have regularly called for a careful approach to international travel to prevent coronavirus being re-imported into the UK, especially new and emerging variants which may not respond to the vaccines.
“The decision to move away from PCR tests from returning travellers on day two is concerning. This test, combined with genetic sequencing of all positive tests, is a vital part of our surveillance for coronavirus and protects our borders from the virus.
“We recognise the communication and enforcement challenges in having different testing requirements, and continue to thoroughly examine the evidence for a Wales-only testing regime, but the strongest solution to protect public health is for the UK government to reinstate UK-wide testing.”
Abta’s director of public affairs, Luke Petherbridge, welcomed the removal of pre-departure testing. He said: “This will make the process much easier for returning travellers and go some way to reducing costs.”
However, he stressed: “The decision not to confirm alignment on Day 2 testing rules – enabling the use of much cheaper lateral flow tests – is disappointing, and we urge ministers to reconsider.
“It is important to remember that anyone who provides a positive lateral flow test after travelling would still be required to seek a confirmatory PCR test, so genomic sequencing ability will be retained.
“Keeping in place more expensive testing arrangements in Wales will leave the Welsh travel and tourism industry facing a competitive disadvantage and it will damage the recovery of the sector.”