Today, a Labour MP claimed Grant Shapps called the government’s rules for international travel testing ‘pointless. 

Ben Bradshaw claimed that Mr Shapps made this comment while taking part in a House of Commons vote. 

This claim was made after yesterday’s announcement by the Government that it would remove all countries remaining on the red list, but keep in place stricter Covid testing guidelines for return travellers. 

In response to Omicron’s emergence, the Government reinstated the red-list and increased border testing.  

Ministers removed the remaining 11 countries from the banned list at 4am this morning and shelved the hotel quarantine system for a second time after they admitted Omicron was now running rampant across the UK. 

Aviation industry is pleased with the abandonment of the red-list, but anger remains over the retention of testing regulations. 

Mr Bradshaw warned this morning that the testing requirements are ‘devastating the Christmas travel industry’ as he grilled Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, during her appearance in front of the Transport Select Committee. 

Dr Harries supported the retention of the testing regulations, saying that she knew there were cases entering the country and it was prudent to prevent these people from transmitting further. 

Ben Bradshaw, a Labour MP, today claimed that Grant Shapps described the Government's international travel testing rules as 'pointless'

Ben Bradshaw (Labour MP) claimed today that Grant Shapps called the Government’s rules for international travel testing ‘pointless.

Mr Bradshaw said Mr Shapps made the comment last night when they were taking part in a vote in the House of Commons

Bradshaw claimed that Mr Shapps said the same thing last night while they were voting in the House of Commons

Sajid Javid (Health Secretary) announced yesterday’s changes to the red-list. 

According to him, the Omicron invasion from overseas was being slowed down by the increased domestic popularity of the variant.

He said that the government would maintain its temporary testing procedures for international travel.

Those measures include requiring fully-vaccinated travellers entering the UK to take a pre-departure test, and to self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a post-arrival PCR test.  

Dr Harries informed the committee that Omicron has spread worldwide and the red list was no longer relevant. 

Mr Bradshaw said: ‘So why in that case has the testing regime not reverted to how it was before Omicron? 

‘Because the testing regime was changed significantly, wasn’t it, in response to Omicron and yet it has remained the same and according to the Government it is going to remain the same right up until January which as this committee is well aware is devastating the Christmas travel industry.’

Dr Harries replied: ‘So Omicron hasn’t gone away, it has gone more widely, so in fact what has happened is the focus on South Africa and the South African region which appears to be epidemiologically the epicentre initially of Omicron we now know that there are cases globally so focusing on those countries is relatively an inappropriate mechanism.

‘But actually trying to prevent ingress of any infections including Omicron still remains a key point particularly when we can foresee a very large wave of Omicron coming through and our health services potentially being in serious peril.’

Mr Bradshaw said the current testing regime for travel is ‘far more strict than the testing regime domestically for people wandering around or moving around the United Kingdom’.

He asked what the public health benefit is of maintaining the rules ‘now that we have Omicron spreading at such a rapid rate here’.

Dr Harries said ‘we have to be careful about trying to manage the total number of infections’ and ‘we try not to add infections where we don’t need to’. 

She added: ‘Where we know that there are cases coming into the country it seems prudent to try and prevent them from transmitting onwards where we can.’

The claim came after the Government yesterday announced it was removing all remaining countries from the red list but it is keeping in place tougher Covid testing rules for returning travellers

After the Government announced yesterday that all other countries would be removed from the redlist, the claim was made. However, it will continue to enforce stricter Covid Testing rules for returning travelers.

Dr Jenny Harries defended the decision to keep the testing rules in place as she said 'where we know that there are cases coming into the country it seems prudent to try and prevent them from transmitting onwards where we can'

Dr Jenny Harries justified the decision to maintain the testing guidelines. She said, “Wherever possible it is prudent to stop cases from entering the country, it would be prudent to do so.”

Bradshaw claimed then that Shapps had called the testing rules “pointless”. 

He told Dr Harries: ‘So the decision to retain these testing rules over Christmas, into the New Year, that would have been taken on your collective advice as well or would ministers have made that decision?

‘Because the health minister said to me in the House yesterday that he thought they were pointless and the Transport Secretary told me in the division lobby last night he thought they were pointless too.

‘Someone is obviously keeping them in place. Who is keeping them in place?’

Dr Harries claimed that she couldn’t speak for any ministers.

‘But we will continuously provide public health advice where asked and that will include around both domestic and international and border testing,’ she said.