The delay in confirming the date for switching from day-two PCR tests for vaccinated arrivals to rapid tests is due to a last-minute decision on the method of verifying test results and the complexity of connecting details to the Passenger Locator Form.
That is according to industry sources who insist: “There is a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes to get this over the line. We’re hopeful they’ll announce it in time for the school half-term but there is no guarantee.”
Last week the government confirmed travellers will be required to submit a photo of their test result and that a follow-up PCR test, required if a day-two rapid test is positive, will be free. But the trade demanded a date for when the changes to the day-two testing requirement would take effect.
A leading aviation source told Travel Weekly: “They only worked out what they were going to do hours before they said they would require photo evidence [on October 7]. They were looking at videos, but a lot of testing providers said ‘We can’t do that’.
“Now a lot of the test providers have to adapt their systems. Once the Department for Transport knows there is enough capacity they will confirm the date. [Transport secretary] Shapps is pushing for October 22.”
A second source explained: “The issue is there has to be full connection with the Passenger Locator Form [PLF] because if the traveller has to take a PCR test it has to be related back to the PLF. That is the whole point. The PCR test will be free if required, but it needs to be connected to the rapid test provider and the pre-booked test reference number on the PLF.
“The passenger will pay to find out whether they’re positive or negative and have to report that. The government will pay for the PCR test for those who test positive because it wants the sequencing data.”
The tests should be considerably cheaper than the current PCR tests, but it’s unclear by how much as the system will still depend on private providers. The source noted: “The lab testing costs will be stripped out, but we’re waiting to see the impact on cost.”