Boris Johnson has hinted that rapid Covid-19 testing could be introduced for travellers, simplifying the current elaborate process of returning to the UK
The prime minister said he wanted to make travel abroad easy and cheap after criticism from the airline industry that current requirements for PCR tests are too onerous.
The boss of easyJet Johan Lundgren over Easter questioned the government’s insistence of testing travellers using conventional Covid-19 tests, which are thought to be more accurate than rapid tests.
Speaking on Tuesday Mr Johnson said vaccine passports would be a “fact of life” for people travelling internationally in future.
The government hopes to reopen international travel on 17 May but says whether this happens will depend on the state both the UK and other countries are in.
Mr Johnson has said only that he has not “given up on the idea”. The government is worried that new Covid variants brought back from abroad could undermine the process made with the UK’s vaccination programe.
Asked about the easyJet boss’s comments about whether rapid lateral flow tests could replace slower PCR tests in the requirements for travellers, Mr Johnson told reporters he had raised the issue himself at the weekend.
“I do think we want to make things as easy as we possibly can … The boss of EasyJet is right to focus on this issue, we’re going to see what we can do to make things as flexible and as affordable as possible,” he said.
“I do want to see international travel start up again. We have to be realistic… we can’t do it immediately. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve given up on May 17.”
Lateral flow tests are becoming more established in the UK, with the government from this Friday relying on them for mass population testing.
In that context the government says it believes false positive results from the quicker tests are rare, at fewer than one in every 1,000 lateral flow tests.