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Calls for Covid test costs to be capped at £40

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Written by: Emma Lunn
12/08/2021
Pressure is mounting on the government to end ‘rip-off’ prices of PCR tests for people arriving in the UK.

Some people arriving in England are forking out £200 or more for Covid tests to meet government regulations, prompting a group of MPs to call on the health secretary to take immediate action to reduce the price of tests.

Henry Smith, chairman of the all-party Future of Aviation group, said the government should cap PCR tests at about £40 and scrap them for holidaymakers returning from ‘low-risk’ countries.

Smith wrote in the Telegraph: “The rationale for the testing regime looks increasingly dubious. Why not, instead, sample a random group of arrivals rather than require everyone to pay for tests frequently run by shoddy companies failing to deliver tests on time and guilty of making hugely misleading price claims?”

The government-approved list of companies offering PCR tests which meet minimum standards shows tests can cost anywhere from £20 to £500.

PCRtravel offers PCR tests for £20 – but you need to collect the test kit from Forest Gate in East London. At the other end of the price scale, Atlas Medical Services charges £500 for a ‘trained clinician’ to come to your home and administer a PCR test with results guaranteed in 24 hours.

Arrivals into Wales and Scotland generally pay more for Covid tests as private tests don’t meet government rules. People flying into Wales or Scotland have to pay £88 for one test if they are coming from a green list country and £170 for two tests if they have been to an amber list country.

Health secretary Sajid Javid has written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to ask the watchdog to “conduct a rapid high-level review of the market for PCR travel tests to assess what action might be taken to ensure that consumers do not face unnecessarily high costs or other poor provision”.

But Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive, responded to the letter saying an investigation would be completed “within the next month”, which will be after the peak summer holiday period has passed.

Arrivals in the UK from green list countries have to take a Covid-19 test in the three days before travelling to England and also book and pay for a day 2 Covid-19 test to be taken after arrival in England.

The same testing rules apply to vaccinated people arriving from amber countries. Unvaccinated travellers from amber countries need to quarantine for 10 days and take a Covid test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said: “Which? has repeatedly highlighted that the cost of testing is too high, preventing some people from taking essential trips overseas or long-awaited holidays. Every day we hear from more people being hit with the consequences of a travel testing system that is unaffordable for many and not fit for purpose.

“The government must urgently look at ways, including the possibility of introducing a price cap, to reduce the cost of testing, while the Competition and Markets Authority must complete its review of the market swiftly, and take action against any firms found to be charging excessive or misleading prices.”

A survey by Capital One earlier this week found that holidaymakers are underestimating the cost of pre-departure Covid-19 tests by as much as a third.

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