The Transport Secretary has offered hope of cheaper Covid tests for holidaymakers as he told MPs the Government has been working to “drive down the cost” of the swabs.
One company on the Government’s approved list is selling a single PCR test for less than £45, Grant Shapps has told the Commons.
Among questions from MPs on the resumption of international travel, Mr Shapps also informed the House that four factors will help decide where countries are allocated on the upcoming traffic light travel system.
Answering questions on Thursday Mr Shapps said: “I know that the House is interested on the update with regard to travel returning internationally over the coming months and I wanted to provide a very quick update to say that although PCR tests may be required from a medical, scientific point of view, we have been working with private laboratories, pharmacies, supermarkets and other companies to encourage them to deliver on their logistical expertise and enter the market and drive down the cost.
“We’ve seen some success so far.
“Because, as I mentioned earlier, the cost of a single PCR day two test now has come down to £60 from one of the large providers on the Government linked site, with a new entrant now at £44.90, enabling more people to access PCR tests as international travel returns.”
Raising concerns among the travel industry, Conservative Julian Sturdy (York Outer) asked Mr Shapps to “commit to publishing detailed assessments of the categorisation of specific countries in the traffic lights system so that the industry bodies are able to see if there is an immediate prospect of improvement”.
Mr Shapps responded: “I can confirm that we will be having the JBC (Joint Biosecurity Centre) look at four principal factors: the level of coronavirus in any given country, the amount of vaccines that they have dispensed in that country, the concern over any particular variants and the quality of the data.
“Those are the facts and figures they’ll be looking at.”
He also said there will be a “green watchlist where we’re able to flag up, perhaps a couple of weeks in advance, to say that we are looking at perhaps a variation of interest which could turn into a variation of concern in order to help provide a little bit more forward guidance this year”.
Amid the travel questions, a minister has also said the Government is “committed” to allowing the safe restart of international cruises “as soon as is possible”.
Conservative former minister Caroline Nokes (Romsey and Southampton North) asked for international travel advice for cruising to be aligned to that for flying.
She told the Commons: “The cruise industry is a significant employer in the Southampton area but British travellers are still advised by the FCDO against cruising even as advice on flying is set to be relaxed along with eased restrictions.”
Transport Minister Robert Courts replied: “The restart of domestic cruises has indeed been confirmed and the global travel taskforce (GTT) advises that international cruises will restart along the wider restart of international travel.
“I am committed to working with colleagues at the FCDO and across Government to see a safe restart of international cruises as soon as is possible in line with the GTT.”