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PM pledges testing update ‘in next few days’

Prime minister Boris Johnson has told the House of Commons an update on testing restrictions will be made “in the next few days” as he announced the removal of Plan B restrictions introduced to combat the spread of the Omicron variant.

The easing of restrictions will see the immediate removal of guidance to work from home, in addition to the removal of face mask mandates in public spaces from next week.

The move continues the momentum of restrictions being loosened as Omicron cases continue to fall.

It follows the relaxation of testing restrictions on international arrivals into England announced earlier this month, and then adopted by the devolved administrations.

While the requirement for a PCR test on arrival in the UK has now been relaxed so a lateral flow is accepted for those fully vaccinated, it is expected that the government will go further at its next review of travel restrictions and outline plans to allow fully vaccinated arrivals to enter without taking a day two Covid test.

Asked in the Commons about test requirements for international travellers, Johnson said: “We are certainly reviewing the testing arrangements for travel and the health secretary will be making a statement in the next few days.”

He added: “It’s very important everybody in the country understands getting your booster, wherever you want to go in the world, is going to be a pretty crucial thing to do.”

Conservative MP Steve Brine questioned the Prime Minister on teenagers and limitations of vaccine passports, pointing out: “They cannot prove they have had two jabs on the NHS app if they are under 16, they can’t access it”.

He asked Johnson how the government would ensure to treat teenagers with “fairness and parity” with their parents in light of the half-term school holidays approaching.

The prime minister responded: “It should be simple as possible for young people” repeating that the government would make a statement about international travel soon.

Downing Street has since defended the decision not to immediately end testing for travel to England. The prime minister’s official spokesman said “at this point in the pandemic” it was important to maintain a “extra layer of surveillance” for any emergence of new variants.

Travel companies have reported a spike in bookings since the relaxation of restrictions on testing for travel, as hopes rise for a ‘near-normal’ summer in 2022 following two years of Covid chaos.

Meanwhile, there are concerns about adequate testing in communities and workplaces as Plan B restrictions are set to end. Tom Watson, the Chair of the Laboratory and Testing Industry Organisation and former Labour deputy leader said: “The only way our country can avoid hard lockdowns is by maintaining a robust Covid testing regime.”

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