One of the scientists who developed the UK's network of testing to quickly identify Covid variants of concern has asked the government for continued surveillance of cases of coronavirus brought into the UK from overseas.
Professor in microbiological evolutionary genomics Alan McNally made the remarks amid reports that ministers are planning to relax Covid travel restrictions.
Double-jabbed travelers will not need to undergo a more expensive PCR test upon returning from green countries. Instead, they will be able to opt for a less costly lateral flow test. Pre-departure tests taken 72 hours before the passenger returns home are likely to be scrapped.
Only positive PCR tests are referred to genomic sequencing, which determines if the infection was caused a new coronavirus variant.
McNally stated: It makes sense when you consider the rates of Covid currently in the UK. They are high so lateral flow tests should be sufficient for travelers.
However, I don't think we can remove all restrictions on travel and travel-associated Covid. We know from the past that travel -associated Covid poses a very high risk to this nation.
This is where the devil is in the details. I really hope that there will be a strong mandate that any lateral flows positive travel test must have a confirmatoryPCR test. Because we still need to monitor the genome for Covid cases imported into the UK from overseas, I believe that this is a matter of genetic surveillance.
He said: "I do believe it vitally important that we do genome surveillance in travel Covid cases."
McNally stated that there were two types of people who needed genome surveillance. They were those who were double vaccinated and were admitted to hospital. He also said, "If we don't monitor travel-related Covid cases, we could get into serious trouble."
Ministers will reportedly reduce the number of countries on the red list, in addition to changes to the travel test regime. Traffic light systems will be overhauled. The amber tier will be removed to make it easier to distinguish between destinations that are go or not go.
Scientists at the Joint Biosecurity Centre are currently suggesting changes to the three lists based on the Covid case, vaccine, and variant levels of each country. Ministers will however vet the suggestions and make final decisions.
George Eustice, environment secretary, spoke on Sky News Friday. He stated: "My understanding is that no decisions have yet been made, but there may be an meeting today to discuss this."
According to government insiders, the Guardian was told by Guardian that the ultimate goal was to simplify the rules after Labour demanded the amber list be scrapped to clarify which destinations are safe and which ones are not.
They also acknowledged that it would provide a stronger incentive for the 10% of eligible people who have not had their first jab. This is due to the fact that more people would need to pay for a PCR instead of a lower lateral flow test, and avoid the hassle of self-isolating.