The requirement for travellers to ‘green’ category countries to take costly PCR tests on their return should be “abolished”, according to Abta chief Mark Tanzer.
But the Abta chief executive said he expects no change to the proposed traffic light system ahead of the restart of travel potentially from mid-May.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Tanzer described PCR tests as “an overly secure measure” and said: “PCR test prices [in the UK] seem to be twice what they are on the Continent.”
He explained: “We would like the green category requirement for a PCR test abolished and replaced with a cheaper lateral flow test.
“Ideally, we’d like to go to a position where we have unrestricted travel, where you don’t need tests. But in the meantime, trying to get lateral flow tests in for green countries is part of our focus.”
However, Tanzer acknowledged: “The government has set out what is going to be the initial requirement in place certainly until it is reviewed on June 28.”
The comments came as easyJet warned that most people will be priced out of foreign holidays this summer because of the need for compulsory Covid testing on their return to the UK.
Tests currently cost an average of £140 to £150, while some express services charge almost £300. The requirement potentially adds £600 to the cost of a holiday for a family of four to destinations such as Greece, Spain and Portugal.
A survey of 2,000 people, issued by the airline, found that 55% would “not be able to go on holiday this summer” if expensive PCR tests were demanded for travel from low-risk “green” countries. It said the average must be brought down to £30 before most people would consider travelling, The Times reported.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “At the current costs, even low-risk green destinations look likely to make travelling for a well-deserved holiday or the chance to see family out of reach for many and the preserve of the rich. This is unfair.”
The government’s Global Travel Taskforce will require travellers to so-far unidentified ‘green list’ countries to take a PCR test on return to the UK, in addition to a cheaper test before their return flight.
Travellers to ‘amber’ category destinations will require two PCR tests after their return to Britain as well as having to self-isolate for 10 days.
Tanzer suggested the government should remove providers of high-priced tests from its approved list of test providers.
He argued: “The government needs to look at how it works with its approved suppliers to put pressure on them to bring the costs down as a quid pro quo for being on the list.”
Tanzer added: “The government is looking at whether the tests you’re required to take before you re-enter the country could be lateral flow tests so people could take a test that is free with them and use that for their return test rather than buy a test in destination.”
The government has made lateral flow tests freely available for home and work testing. But the taskforce report explicitly rules out use of free NHS Covid tests for international travel.
Tanzer said: “We’re determined to keep them focused on the costs of over-strict testing rules.”