HomeTravelGovernment should pay for PCR travel tests, say industry chiefs

Government should pay for PCR travel tests, say industry chiefs

The UK government should pick up the tab for expensive PCR travel tests, according to a leading travel industry body.

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which represents the global private travel and tourism sector, is calling for the UK government to foot the bill for PCR travel tests for fully vaccinated travellers; either that, or allow travellers to use cheaper antigen tests instead.

Travellers returning from countries on the government’s green list, as well as fully vaccinated passengers coming from amber list countries, must currently pay for a PCR test within two days of arriving in the UK.

Those arriving from amber countries who have not been double-jabbed must pay for tests on days two and eight, as well as quarantining for 10 days upon entry to the UK.

PCR travel tests, which must be purchased privately from a list of government-approved providers, cost around £75 on average in the UK.

This is typically higher than elsewhere in Europe, where governments have capped the cost or, in the case of France, entirely subsidised tests for tourists.

The costs of PCR tests vary hugely between providers, with tests available on the government’s testing website for as much as £399.

The cheapest ‘self swab at home’ tests available on the site are £20, but that figure often goes up considerably once customers click through to book their tests, finding that £20 tests are only available to those able to pick up kits at particular locations, or for NHS staff.

Some home test kits listed for £20 on the government site cost as much as five times that figure, reports The Daily Mail.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, told the newspaper: “The government list is not really fit for purpose.

“Many of the cheapest advertised don’t exist or the advertised prices are impossible or unrealistic to obtain.

“Many also fail to provide tests and results on time. It’s unacceptable and ridiculous.”

Earlier in the week the health secretary Sajid Javid requested that the Competition and Markets Authority look into “excessive” pricing and “exploitative practices” among PCR Covid test firms, a move supported by the WTTC.

The high cost of PCR tests in the UK is also partly down to the fact that the government charges VAT on the tests.

Avi Lasarow of Prenetics, a government-approved private travel test provider, would like to see this axed: “If VAT was removed, a family of four flying from London to Majorca could save £166 – which would pay for the cost of the flights.

“Not only would they cheaper, but it would mean more people would be prepared to go abroad, which would be a huge boost to the UK travel industry.”

Virginia Messina, WTTC senior vice president and acting CEO, said: “For many people – especially families and small businesses on a budget – the crippling added cost of the unnecessary PCR tests makes the difference between being able to travel or not.

“It’s clear that many British adults simply can’t afford to travel overseas at all if they have to pay the excessive cost of PCR tests.”

Research by YouGov in May found that 47 per cent of British adults viewed the financial cost of Covid tests as a main barrier to international travel.

The government has defended the use of the more expensive PCR tests, as they enable genomic sequencing of positive tests, crucial in identifying and learning about new variants of concern.

Ms Messina said: “If the government wants extra information for genomic sequencing, they should pay for it.

“If they don’t pay, then consumers will vote with their feet and avoid international travel altogether, further damaging the already struggling UK Travel & Tourism sector.”

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