Irish Examiner Saturday
Start to think about holidays abroad, says UK minister
People in the UK can “start to think” about booking overseas summer holidays, according to transport secretary Grant Shapps.
The Cabinet minister said it is the first time in “many months” he was not advising against booking foreign trips.
His comments came just five days after Downing Street published a document which urged people “not to book summer holidays abroad until the picture is clearer”.
Yesterday Mr Shapps announced a “framework” for the resumption of overseas leisure travel, which included requiring all arrivals to take pre-departure and post-arrival coronavirus tests.
Post-arrival tests must be the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) type which cost about £120 (€138), he said. This led to a furious backlash from the travel industry, which wants travellers returning from low-risk countries to be allowed to take lateral flow tests, which are cheaper and quicker.
Asked if people could start to book foreign holidays now, Mr Shapps told Sky News: “I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t book summer holidays now.
“It’s the first time that I’ve been able to say that for many months.”
He said he was looking to “drive down the costs” of tests required for international travel to resume.
“Costs are definitely a concern, it’s one of the factors this year, and we have to accept we’re still going through a global pandemic,” he said.
“And so we do have to be cautious and I’m afraid that does involve having to have some tests and the like.
“But, I am undertaking today to drive down the costs of those tests and looking at some innovative things we could do.”
A UK government source said identifying coronavirus variants can only be done with PCR tests.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said the requirement for those tests was “a blow to all travellers” and risked “making flying only for the wealthy”.
He added: “As the rest of British society and the economy opens up, it makes no sense to treat travel, particularly to low-risk countries, differently.”
Mark Tanzer, boss of travel trade organisation Abta, said permitting the use of lateral flow tests would “make international travel more accessible and affordable whilst still providing an effective mitigation against reimportation of the virus”.