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One per cent of amber travellers test positive for Covid as pressure grows to scrap PCR regime

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Just one per cent of travellers returning to England from amber-list countries tested positive for Covid in recent weeks, latest NHS Test and Trace figures show.

An average of 1.01 per cent of people received a positive Covid-19 result from a day-two test after returning from an amber-list destination since 15 July, when the service began reporting the positivity rates of mandatory PCR tests for international travel.

This figure is lower for the latest available data - showing just 3,347 people, or 0.9 per cent of travellers, tested positive in the seven days to 1 September.

However an overall increase in foreign travel means the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 after returning from trips abroad has continued to rise, at the same time that the proportion of positive tests has fallen. 

There were just 889 positive cases among travellers returning to England from countries on the amber list in the week to 21 July. Bookings for foreign holidays catapulted that week however, after the Government lifted quarantine rules for double-jabbed passengers returning to the UK.

Airlines including Easyjet reported a 400 per cent increase in sales to popular holiday destinations on the amber list in the week following the announcement, despite travellers still needing to take costly PCR tests to re-enter Britain. 

The Government is under mounting pressure to scrap costly PCR tests for double-vaccinated holidaymakers.

Day-two tests are required for every level of the traffic-light system, though NHS Test and Trace does not currently provide data on the proportion of passengers testing positive after returning from countries on the green list.

Holidaymakers must book and pay for a day-two test before they return to the UK, and can be fined if they do not take the required test.

The PCR tests can cost as much as £75 from private providers, and are not available for free on the NHS. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Sunday that he hoped to remove the day two testing requirement "as soon as I possibly can".

Mr Javid told Sky News he was aware of the cost for families holidaying abroad and that the testing measures should not be in place "for a second longer than is absolutely necessary".

The Health Secretary has previously vowed to crack down on travel-test "cowboys" profiteering from the mandatory PCR requirement.

Mr Javid said on Saturday that companies "messing around with costs" of day two tests will face fines of up to £10,000, after the UK competition regulator called for an "interventionist" response from ministers.

"It is completely unacceptable for any private testing company to take advantage of holidaymakers and we are taking action to clamp down on cowboy behaviour," he said. 

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) warned there was a "race for the bottom" in the PCR testing market which could see families shedding unnecessary cash on costly tests, despite being vaccinated. 

It comes weeks after the regulator said it found evidence that providers of some Covid-19 travel tests flouted consumer rules and threatened enforcement action.

Holidaymakers have previously told i they were left waiting days for results after paying hundreds of pounds for the costly tests.

Reports over the weekend suggested that the day-two testing requirement could soon be dropped for double-vaccinated travellers, who would instead be able to take a free lateral flow test.  

The Mail on Sunday reported that officials are currently working towards scrapping the rule for green and amber-list countries before the half-term holidays next month.

The Department for Transport is set to hold a review on current travel requirements on 1 October, when ministers will look into scrapping PCR tests and streamlining the current three-tier system into two travel lists, with amber and green merging into one.

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