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Announcement Expected Today on End of PCR Travel Tests

An announcement is expected shortly and it will be welcome news for the snowsports and wider travel industry that has been hit hard by the restrictions. The traffic light system is also expected to go. If confirmed there will likely be a rise in ski holiday bookings. UPDATED

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The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has hinted the rules may be about to change following newspaper reports last Sunday.

There is further  speculation in the press with some saying the details will come today, Friday 17th September.

Downing Street has now confirmed that the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, will “make an international travel update later” on Friday.

Grant Shapps confirms he will make an update on the UK’s international travel rules later.

“I’ll set out measures to simplify international travel later today in order to reduce costs, take advantage of higher levels of vaccination, and keep us all safe,” he said on Twitter.

Boris Johnson hinted on Wednesday that the traffic light system rules will be “simplified” with fewer tests for holidaymakers.

He was asked about the changes to the travel rules in a Downing Street news conference.

“We’ll be looking at how to simplify [the traffic light system] and what we can do to make the burdens of testing less onerous for people who are coming back into the country,” he said.

Double-jabbed travellers will no longer be required to have expensive PCR Covid tests when returning to the UK, according to Sunday newspaper reports last weekend.

“Travellers will no longer need Covid tests before leaving for Britain, while the unpopular PCR tests currently required on the second day after arrival will be replaced by cheaper lateral flow tests,” said the Mail on Sunday.

The new rules would only apply to those who have been double jabbed.

Currently people entering the UK need to pay for a PCR test on or before the second day after their arrival, no matter what their vaccination status.

The government has not confirmed or denied the reports, and is facing growing demands for change from the travel industry.

With winter approaching the UK snowsports industry sees it as a move that would boost bookings.

Cervinia, Aosta Valley, Italy

Cervinia, Aosta Valley, Italy. Image c/o Ski Solutions.

PCR testing should be abandoned for most holidaymakers, said the Association of British Travel Agents, ABTA.

Fully vaccinated travellers should not need to be tested on their return from lower-risk countries, it said.

It also called for a “significant overhaul” of the traffic light system for travel destinations.

“The government needs to wake up to the damage its policies are doing to the UK travel industry and the impact they will have on the wider economic recovery,” said ABTA chief executive, Mark Tanzer.

“While our European neighbours have been travelling freely and safely, the British were subject to expensive measures which have stood in the way of people visiting family and friends, taking that much-needed foreign holiday and making important business connections.

PCR test for travel. Image © PlanetSKI

PCR test for travel. Image © PlanetSKI

The expense of PCR testing is widely blamed for discouraging people from travelling abroad.

There have been many complaints over the cost and efficiency of the current system.

Travellers coming from countries on the Government’s amber traffic light list  have to take a pre-departure test, which can be either a PCR test or lateral flow test.

“The cost and hassle of the tests is what is putting off many skiers and snowboarders from booking a holiday for next season,” said the PlanetSKI editor, James Cove.

“For a family it can add hundreds of pounds to the cost of a snowsports holiday.

“Many people have been waiting to see what will happen, and the reported move coupled with the axeing of the green and amber distinction should give people more confidence to book for the approaching ski season.”

Heathrow airport saw a 48% increase in passengers in August, compared to July.

2.2 million people travelled through airport in August,  the highest monthly total seen during the pandemic.

Quarantine restrictions were eased on 19th  July for fully vaccinated people travelling to England from amber-list countries.

However, the airport says demand is still down 71% compared with pre-Covid times.

See here for our earlier story last week on the possible axeing of the UK’s traffic light system:

Border controls

Border controls. Image © PlanetSKI

There has been reaction from PlanetSKI readers on our Facebook page:

Image © PlanetSKI

Image © PlanetSKI

Some predict a surge in sales of snowsports holidays after any announcements.

Partly due to the lifting of measures, but also because holiday prices look set to rise so people may want to get in early.

The boss of budget airline Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, has warned that holiday prices are likely to rise sharply next year as consumer demand for travel rebounds.

Fewer flights, inflation and more taxes are expected to drive the price of airfares up.

“I think there will be a dramatic recovery in holiday tourism within Europe next year,” he said to the Sunday Times.

“And the reason why I think prices will be dramatically higher is that there’s less capacity.”

There is also less overall capacity in the snowsports industry as operators have cut back, so ski holiday prices are likely to rise.

Torgnon, Aosta Valley, Italy

Torgnon, Aosta Valley, Italy. Image © PlanetSKI

Travellers will still be required to adhere to the testing rules of the country they are travelling to.

The UK has one of the highest current number of Covid-19 cases cases in Europe.

It currently stands at 373 per 100,000 of population over a 7-day period.

Of the alpine and skiing nations Switzerland has the most cases at 259 and there are growing concerns that hospitals may be unable to cope.

On Monday new restrictions come into force in Switzerland.

The other alpine and skiing nations have a lower number of current cases.

Of the alpine nations France has 102, Austria 147 and Italy 58.

In the Pyrenees mountain range Spain is on 63 and Andorra 36.

In Scandinavia Norway has 169 cases per 100, 000 people over 7-day with Finland on 64 and Sweden 58.

Most EU countries have abandoned the requirement for PCR tests for the fully vaccinated and some have recently eased restrictions on travellers from the UK.

Flying to the Alps

Flying over the Alps. Image © PlanetSKI

Concerns do remain as it is unclear what pressures there will be on the NHS over winter – both in terms of Covid-19 and its variants, plus other illnesses including winter flu.

Some question whether removing PCR tests for travellers is a good idea and a better strategy might be to make the tests cheaper and more efficient, but it looks like the current testing system is about to go.

Related Stories:

Ski resorts in Europe start to announce opening dates

US resorts announce opening dates

Switzerland, Finland and Canada go on the UK’s Green List

Here at PlanetSKI we are making further enquiries and will be updating as soon as we hear more news about the changes…

Image © PlanetSKI

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