Grant Shapps rules out pre-departure Covid tests for UK arrivals

Grant Shapps rules out pre-departure Covid tests for UK arrivals as he warns the checks could ‘kill off the travel sector again’ and says vaccine passports are now ‘the norm’ for international travel

  • Labour has urged the Government to introduce pre-departure Covid testing
  • But Grant Shapps suggested the move would ‘kill off the travel sector again’
  • Transport Secretary said the Government’s response to Omicron is ‘calibrated’ 

Grant Shapps has rejected calls from Labour and Government scientific experts to introduce pre-departure coronavirus testing for all UK arrivals. 

The Transport Secretary said ministers do not want to unnecessarily ‘kill off the travel sector again’. 

He insisted the Government has brought forward a ‘calibrated response’ to the new Omicron Covid variant ‘which doesn’t take us right back to the beginning of this’. 

Mr Shapps also said he believes vaccine passports will be ‘the norm’ for international travel for the foreseeable future. 

Grant Shapps has rejected calls from Labour and Government scientific experts to introduce pre-departure coronavirus testing for all UK arrivals

The Transport Secretary said ministers do not want to unnecessarily ‘kill off the travel sector again’

The Government has introduced a requirement for all UK arrivals to take a PCR test on or before the second day following their arrival in the country. Travellers must self-isolate until they test negative. 

But Boris Johnson is under pressure to further tighten the testing requirements to better protect against importing cases of Omicron. 

Leaked papers from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) suggested testing people for Covid before they travel to the UK would be ‘valuable’. 

The documents, seen by the BBC, also said the Government’s current policy of testing people within two days of arrival in the country would identify ‘significantly fewer cases’ than having additional tests on days five or eight. 

The advice was contained in minutes of a meeting of the scientists on Monday and has been seized on by Labour, which has called for pre-departure tests for everyone coming to the UK.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said it was ‘totally unacceptable that ministers are failing to take action at the border when even their own advisers are telling them to introduce pre-departure tests’.

But Mr Shapps rejected the call for pre-departure tests when he was asked about the issue during an interview on The Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast. 

The Transport Secretary said: ‘Lots of countries do require if you are going to them for pre-testing. We are not requiring that at the moment.

‘I heard the Leader of the Opposition calling for that from the despatch box at Prime Minister’s Questions this week.

‘Do you want to kill off the travel sector again, without knowing that you need to? Or do you want to take the right level of calibrated response?

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper (pictured second right) said it was ‘totally unacceptable that ministers are failing to take action at the border when even their own advisers are telling them to introduce pre-departure tests’

‘And this Government thinks we should take a calibrated response which doesn’t take us right back to the beginning of this.’

The Government has pledged to review the curbs it has introduced to slow the spread of Omicron after three weeks. 

Mr Shapps was also asked if unvaccinated people are likely to find life increasingly difficult because of vaccine requirements. 

He replied: ‘Not to be awkward to those people but actually to protect everybody else, I think it is just inevitable that the norm for travel globally is going to be “have you been vaccinated” in the same way as for many years if you wanted to go to certain countries you can’t go without a yellow fever certificate passport.’ 

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