Travelers could be as likely to catch Covid while traveling to Torquay as a traveler to Turkey, an expert has said, as international travel rules have been relaxed.
Relaxing the rules on quarantine and testing for international travelers “will inevitably increase the risk” of infections from abroad, said Dr Simon Clarke.
But the associate professor of cell microbiology at the University of Reading added that the high rates in the UK mean it would be “rude” to have obstacles in the way of overseas travel.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Friday that the traffic light system was to be replaced from October 4 with a single, reduced ‘red list’ of destinations, from which travelers arriving in England would have to quarantine themselves in a hotel supervised by the government.
Fully vaccinated people will no longer need a pre-departure test before returning from unblocked destinations, and from the end of October they will be able to replace the day two PCR test with a flow test. lateral cheaper.
Dr Clarke said that while people who double down on the virus reduce the risk of transmission, it is “not zero”.
He said: ‘Given that community transmission in the UK is still at a high level, it seems rude to put high barriers in the way of international travel when the chances of catching Covid at home are relatively high.
“With infection rates as high as in the UK and with vaccines offering good but not perfect protection, you might be as likely to recover Covid on a trip to Torquay as you are on a trip to Torquay. Turkey.”
With the changes to the testing rules, he warned that “more accurate” PCR tests should be used to confirm results from faster lateral flow tests.
Travel suppliers have already reported a spike in interest since the announcement, with one saying there has been a “phenomenal response”.
Steve Heapy, managing director of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said bookings had increased “by more than 250%”.
He said Turkey is proving to be “exceptionally popular”, adding: “Thanks to the certainty that yesterday’s announcement has given to customers, destinations in all areas are selling well, whether for the sun of late summer, winter or next summer As you might expect, semester dates have also seen an increase in bookings for families.
Alan French, chief executive of travel company Thomas Cook, said mid-October bookings were up 200% from August and that he expected that figure to rise due to system change.
Andrew Flintham, managing director of holiday company TUI UK, said he had already seen “an increase in bookings for Turkey in October” and expected customer confidence to increase with the new rules.
Online travel agency Skyscanner said it saw a 133% increase in traffic within 30 minutes of Mr Shapps’ announcement, as there were “huge increases” in searches for destinations such as Turkey and the Maldives ahead of Friday’s news.
But another scientist warned that the latest changes could lead to the arrival of new variants, as PCR testing had been a way to watch for mutations entering the country.
Professor Lawrence Young, professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said: “The main concern is what this means for the genomic sequencing of the virus. How are we going to ensure that people who test positive on the lateral flow test isolate themselves and pass a PCR test?
“It is likely that this approach will reduce our ability to effectively monitor the introduction of new variants into the country.
“We know that fully vaccinated people can be infected and spread the virus. We also know that previous waves of infection were fueled by returning travelers.
“Letting our guard down runs the risk of introducing a new variant into the country, such as the mu variant first identified in Colombia, which could reduce the effectiveness of current vaccines. “
Labor has also raised concerns over continued surveillance for coronavirus variants, with Shadow Transportation Secretary Jim McMahon saying PCR testing plays “a crucial role” in identifying mutations and demanding that the ministers “define in detail how they will continue this monitoring”.
The Scottish government has said it will ditch the traffic light system but will not follow England in removing the requirement for pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated people returning from countries not on the red list, and will not pass not to the use of lateral flow tests on the second day.
The Welsh government has said it will review the changes proposed by the UK government, but Health and Human Services Minister Eluned Morgan warned they could “weaken the line of defense on importation of infection and increase the opportunities for new infections and new variants to enter the UK and Wales “.
Both administrations said they would reflect changes to Red List destinations.
In Northern Ireland, the traffic light system will change from October 4, with a single “red list” of destinations and a “streamlined process” for travelers from the rest of the world.
Proposed changes to pre-departure and post-arrival testing are under consideration and will be discussed by Stormont ministers next week.
Under the modified travel system for England, unvaccinated passengers from countries not on the red list will be required to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on the second and eighth days after their return.
However, travelers who have a valid vaccination certificate from 17 additional countries and territories, including Japan and Singapore, will be treated as if they had been stung in the UK.
Meanwhile, eight countries, including Turkey, Pakistan and the Maldives, are removed from the red list with effect at 4 a.m. on Wednesday.
Travelers from Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya will also no longer be required to quarantine at the hotel from that date.
Mr Shapps said the measures aimed to strike the “right balance”, simplifying the system while managing the risk to public health “as priority 1”.
The latest government figures showed that as of Saturday there had been 30,144 more laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK, and 164 more people had died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus.
The number of Covid deaths reported by the government in the past seven days is 1,003.
This is the first time that figure has exceeded 1,000 since the seven days before March 15.