Ministers have been urged to ditch “illogical, unnecessary and damaging” Covid travel tests for under-11s, which no other countries impose on children.
England is the only country in Europe to require under-11s to be tested on their return and to exempt only those aged four or under. It can add nearly £150 to the cost of a holiday for a family of four.
However, public health experts and children’s groups say it is an unnecessary burden on healthy children when Covid infection rates among returning travellers are lower than those in the UK.
‘If you have high vaccination rates, why are you doing this?’
Allyson Pollock, professor of public health at Newcastle University, told The Telegraph: “Testing young children is illogical and unnecessary. If your background rates are low in the population, then there is no logic to testing in any case.
“If you have high vaccination rates, why are you doing this? It comes down to what is the evidence in support of testing.
“We know the tests themselves are problematic and the Government is moving to lateral flow tests [LFTs] where the sensitivity and performance depends on who is doing them. There has been no evaluation of self-testing using LFTs. Moreover, if you are not trained to do the tests, test performance is poor.
“All this highlights some of the nonsense around testing travellers which has never been evaluated and shown to be a good tool for stopping transmission or infection in travellers.”
Even the Scottish government, which has been more cautious than England over Covid restrictions, has exempted all under-11s on the basis that the potential damage to a child’s wellbeing outweighs the benefits from testing.
“Clinicians considered the risk of transmission compared to the well-being of children and are confident that testing under the age of 11 is not required,” said a Scottish government spokesman.
The row comes on the eve of the October half term, with the Government due to replace PCR tests with LFTs for travellers entering the UK from the end of October. But under-11s in England will still be required to take them on or before day two of their arrival.