Government’s decision on PCR tests ‘will be driven by data’

Data on the number of UK arrivals with Covid should help convince the government to reduce the burden on testing for international travellers, the boss of Travel Counsellors believes.

Steve Byrne believes “it’s pretty clear the government is driven by data” and noted the “low percentage coming back to the country testing positive is encouraging”.

He, like many in the travel industry, want to see PCR tests scrapped for arrivals who have had been fully-jabbed with an approved vaccine.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, he said: “Testing was put in place to try and identify variants of the of the virus; so it doesn’t make sense if you’ve been double-vaccinated to have PCR tests.

“We hope the data, over time, gives the government confidence to simplify the system.”

But Byrne urged the industry to focus on the things they can directly control, such as helping their customers navigate the rules.

He said: “We can take control of our attitude and our ability to help our customers and each other. Make your opinion heard but don’t let that dominate or influence your approach.”

The government is due to review the current international travel restrictions by October 1.

Byrne said the variations of the traffic lights in the current system are “clearly unhelpful” to customers.

He called for the government to give the industry and holidaymakers time to process any potential changes to the system at the October 1 review before implementing them.

Byrne said the burden of explaining the changes falls on travel companies and believes the industry could have benefitted from “greater simplicity” this summer.

“When considering government decisions, everyone thinks about their own business,” he said. “But bigger than that is what these decisions mean for customers.

“We’re a customer-facing business; we love sending people on holiday, so want a system that’s easy for customers.

“Customers have broadly got their heads around the traffic light system, but the variations were clearly unhelpful. It wasn’t just red, amber, green, it was a number of other variations thereof.

“You’ve got a UK system people may understand, but what happens when you arrive may be completely different from one destination to another. We want to make the process as simple as possible for so customers can book securely and safely; understanding what’s required.

“Greater simplicity would have helped. We understand why decisions were taken, but they weren’t thinking about people’s experience. If there are more changes, we hope the government gives people some time to get their heads around changes.

“We’re constantly lobbying that when they’re making decisions for health reasons, think about the impact on people in a broader way; mental health, economic, well-being and customer experience. Those decisions affect us, and when they affect our customers, we step in to help pick up the pieces.”

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