We have learnt over the past year that no easing of lockdown rules comes without at least a few catches. The relaxing of travel quarantine rules for those who are fully vaccinated is no exception. Families that travel to “Amber List” countries may not have to self-isolate upon their return to the U.K. from July 19th, but they will have to force their children – aged between five and 18 – to undergo PCR testing, much to the anger of many parents. The Telegraph has the story.
Parents and academics claimed it was unnecessary and potentially harmful to test such young children, while tourism chiefs warned the extra costs for holidays could price many families out of foreign travel.
The Transport Secretary announced that all children aged five to 18 will have to undergo PCR tests when they return from Amber Countries with their parents or individually. Only those aged four or under will not have to be tested.
The tests are required as part of the Government’s new travel regime for double-jabbed adults and all children to be able to travel to Amber countries from July 19th without having to quarantine on their return to the U.K.
Children aged over 11 and all vaccinated adults will have to take pre-departure tests and a PCR test on or before day two after their arrival back in the U.K.
Those aged five to 11 have to take just the PCR test on arrival. For a family of four, it could add £400 to the cost of a holiday.
Most other countries in Europe exempt children aged under 12 but Mr Shapps said the PCR tests were necessary to enable the Government to track and prevent variants being imported through genome sequencing the samples.
Molly Kingsley, Co-Founder of UsforThem, a parents’ campaign group, said Britain had never tested healthy adults “let alone five year-olds for asymptomatic illnesses”.
“It is very unclear why we would be doing this now at a time when we know the vaccines have broken the link between infections and hospitalisations,” she said.
“Many parents would feel uneasy about normalising testing for children as young as this. It sends a very negative message to our children that they are disease vectors.
“Any holiday with a family is expensive enough as it is. I would not put a five or eight year-old through this to go away.”
Professor Allyson Pollock, Director of the Newcastle University Centre for Excellence in Regulatory Science, said that with the link between infection, hospitalisation and deaths “hugely weakened”, testing children was illogical.
“We really should be asking: what is the prevalence of infection and how good is the natural immunity in the country they are returning to? What evidence is there that these tests will reduce transmission?” she said.
“I don’t understand the logic of it or what has informed it. Where are the evaluations and science to support this. They are making it up as they go along. This is the mess you get into when you introduce vaccine passports and Covid tests.
“You either make a decision that you don’t want people to travel to countries with high prevalence or coming back into them, or you simply say we have got pretty good immunity established in the country.”
The aviation industry welcomed the opening of Amber countries to vaccinated Britons as a “step in the right direction,” but urged the Government to ditch PCR tests for the fully jabbed.