Put an end to costly Polymerase Chain Reaction tests, UK government told

By Luke Barras-hill |

Passenger numbers at MAN have picked up marginally since the 4 August traffic light changes, but volumes remain below pre-pandemic levels. Pictured is a Biza Tax & Duty Free store.

Manchester Airport (MAN) Managing Director Karen Smart says the requirement for UK passengers – including those that are fully vaccinated and returning from low-risk destinations – to pay for PCR tests is ‘out of step’ with the rest of Europe.

This, together with the current traffic light system and travel restrictions, is holding back the recovery of UK airports and airlines.

“UK passengers continue to be subjected to onerous and expensive PCR testing on the basis they will be sequenced to protect the UK from variants of concern, but it is clear this is not happening,” stated Smart.

“Passengers – especially those who are fully vaccinated – will be right to question why they are forced to pay the extra cost for tests which are not being used in the way we were told they would be.”

PAX 85.9% DOWN ON JULY 2019

The comments come as the airport publishes its passenger figures for July, with numbers down by 85.9% versus July 2019 to total 447,954.

Smart adds that the recovery of the sector, which supports millions of jobs and billions of pounds in economic value, continues to lag ‘significantly’ behind the rest of Europe.

The latest August data from Airports Council International (ACI) Europe shows that Europe’s airports are serving around 59% of pre-pandemic traffic, compared with just 28% in the UK.

Click to enlarge. Source: ACI Europe.

Requiring passengers to undergo PCR tests in the UK differs from the approach in Europe, where fully vaccinated travellers can forego testing to travel between low-risk destinations.

Other airports including Gatwick have been critical of the prices associated with the tests.

MAN points out that only around 5% of the PCR tests required by government to identify variants of concern are being sent for genomic sequencing.

TRBusiness has reached out to the UK government for a response.

“We need a simple and sustainable system for travel, which people can understand and that is proportionate to the public health position here in the UK,” added Smart. “The government must act urgently to review the system and re-evaluate the need for expensive PCR tests.”

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