An announcement on scrapping PCR tests for travellers ahead of half-term will be made in “coming days”, the transport secretary has said.
Grant Shapps said they “anticipate” having the change ready before the school holiday later this month.
It means the cost of a family holiday will drop by hundreds of pounds, with PCR tests costing around £75 each on average.
Instead, fully vaccinated arrivals will be able to use a lateral flow test for their day two test which cost around £25.
Passengers will have to send a picture of their lateral flow test to authorities two days after arriving in Britain, followed by a free PCR test if positive.
It comes after the government reduced England’s travel “red list” to just seven countries – down from 54.
If it’s negative, that’s it, you’re free to go.Grant Shapps
Asked to give a date for when they would move from PCR to lateral flow, Shapps told Sky News: “We want to get this done for half-term for people.
“We anticipate having it ready for the half-term and what a difference it will make for people, rather than having to do things like send off the test and wait for the results.
“As people will be familiar with the lateral flow, you read it on the cassette there and then, it shows your result within a few minutes, and [it’s] much easier, much less expensive as well.”
Pressed on when the public could expect an announcement, he replied: “In the coming days.
“We know when obviously the half-term is coming up and my advice to people would be just to hold off.”
He was pressed again on Times Radio and said it was their “goal” to have PCR travel tests gone by October 22.
Shapps said travellers returning to the UK could be “done and dusted” on testing before they even get home, with lateral flows set to be available at airports.
The secretary of state said people arriving in the UK who take a lateral flow test will just have to take a photograph of it to prove the result.
He told BBC Breakfast said: “If it’s positive, you’ll automatically receive a PCR test, you’ll be in the NHS system, as with the normal test and trace.
“So you’ll get the PCR without having to do anything further and of course be asked to isolate. If it’s negative, that’s it, you’re free to go.”
Asked how authorities could be sure the photographed lateral flow test belonged to the right person, he added: “You could always say this with any system, the PCR system that’s been in place up until now hasn’t required any monitoring at all. So you could always make that argument.
“We have throughout this crisis, though, I think relied on people’s common sense, I think most people wanted to do the right thing.”
Shapps also insisted that lateral flow tests had been “getting better and better” on their sensitivity.
Last night it was announced that 47 destinations including South Africa will be removed from England’s red list at 4am on Monday.
Passengers returning to England from these destinations will no longer be required to enter hotel quarantine.
Meanwhile, the travel red list will be reduced to Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
The travel industry welcomed the news but stressed the PCR tests needed to be replaced with lateral flows in time for the school holiday.
Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of ABTA The Travel Association said: “We also urge the government to remove all testing for primary school age children, which would bring it in line with the approach it has for testing in schools.”
Chair of the Transport Committee Huw Merriman MP said passengers and the travel industry need “urgent clarity” on the test changes or it will be too late for those who “need financial certainty” to book the October half-term holiday.