Latest on PCR travel tests and whether holidaymakers still need them

PCR travel tests have been a necessary inconvenience and expense for many people who have holidayed abroad throughout this year.

But just last week, the Westminster government’s rules changed.

An announcement from the Department for Transport and the Department of Health and Social Care (dated Friday, September 17) revealed that as well as the removal of the amber list system (making just green and red lists), there were new rules coming in regarding PCR tests.

The testing requirements for people travelling into England from non-red list countries apply to fully vaccinated travellers, from Monday, October 4 at 4am.

They will no longer need to take a pre-departure test (PDT) when travelling to England.

And from the end of October, the government will be changing rules so that eligible fully vaccinated passengers, (with an approved vaccine) from a group of some non-red countries, will be able to replace the day two PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow test.

The UK government are keen to bring this into force by late October so that it is in place for people returning from their half-term breaks.

Anyone found to have tested positive will need to be subject to the same rules as before – isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test at no additional cost to the traveller – this will be sequenced to help keep track of new variants.

In the case of unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated passengers from non-red countries, tests will still include pre-departure tests and day two and day eight PCR tests.

People will also need PCR tests if they are returning from a red list country, or have Covid symptoms.

Of course, the pandemic has shown that a lot can change within a short amount of time, so while it is not yet expected, it is not impossible that previous rules for PCR tests for green list countries will be reintroduced as we head into the winter months.

What this means for Wales

Shortly after the Westminster announcement was made, Welsh Government health and social services minister Eluned Morgan said: “We will carefully consider the UK Government’s proposed changes to the border health measures, which include the removal of pre-departure testing and introducing lateral flow tests instead of PCR tests on day two of people’s return to the UK.

“These changes are not without risk – they weaken the line of defence on importing infection and increase opportunities for new infections and new variants to enter the UK and Wales.

“Vaccines can help reduce this risk but only if they are effective against new and emerging variants of concern and high-risk variants under investigation.”

The official Welsh government advice is only travel abroad for essential reasons – the latest Welsh government decisions can be found through the Welsh Government website.

Where to buy your PCR tests

A couple of airline providers have some price comparisons for PCR tests, depending on your requirements.

In some cases, you can save money by doing home testing rather than in-person testing.

But customers are advised to check their flight requirements in advance – not all flights will allow home testing.

The places you can go for testing providers and deals on tests include:

British Airways

There are a range of BA third party deals on PCR tests, which go from just over £40.

Boots

Boots offers at-home testing for £65 or instore testing for £79.

ExpressTest

ExpressTest offers PCR tests at 25 locations across the UK, with PCR Fit to Fly tests from £59 at selected locations.

Breathe Assured

Breathe Assured has partnered with Randox to provide PCR travel tests for a reduced price of £45.

Jet2

Much like BA, Jet2 offers a range of deals on PCR tests, some for just over £40.

TUI

TUI have a range of deals on testing kits for purposes with Government-approved testing providers Chronomics.

They’re available from just £20 per person with delivery and return costs for the tests included in the price.