Transport secretary ‘chivvying’ health officials for Covid test change

The transport secretary is pushing Department of Health officials to confirm a date for PCR tests to be replaced by cheaper lateral flow ones for arrivals to England.

Grant Shapps announced last week that the change will happen in “late October” but he has been under pressure to confirm the date, as it affects families travelling over the half-term holiday period.

From the end of October, the day-two Covid test for fully-vaccinated international arrivals from “a select group of non-red countries” can be conducted with a lateral flow test – ending the requirement for PCR tests, which have been criticised as costly and not being used to track variants.

Speaking to MPs on the transport select committee on Wednesday (September 22), Shapps said that the date of the change was not “directly” within his remit as it is a matter for the Department of Health.

The minister said he is working “very closely” Department of Health colleagues, who are aware of the half-term dates and understand “speed is of great importance”.

Officials are also working with private sector providers to move from supplying PCR to lateral flow tests as quickly as possible.

“I want to see that announcement out to provide clarity for people as quickly as possible. I appreciate the urgency and I will be chivvying this along,” he said.

Ben Bradshaw MP asked the minister why travellers have to wait until the end of October for the change to lateral flow testing, which is “potentially jeopardising the very important half-term for the industry which could be a lifesaver for many companies”.

Shapps said such questions would be better put to a health minister but explained it was related to the “ramp-up” of supply of tests, from “low thousands” to “millions”.

He hopes the market will offer prices for lateral flow tests that are about half of those for PCRs.

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