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Ministers urged to cap ‘rip-off’ cost of Covid-19 tests for travel


By David Hughes, PA Political Editor

Boris Johnson has been urged to cap the cost of private Covid-19 tests to prevent foreign holidays becoming a luxury open only to the wealthiest families.

A list of providers which meet minimum testing standards on the Government website shows more than 100 outlets charging £200 or more.

Analysis of the list by the Liberal Democrats shows just 11% of the providers offered tests for under £50, with the cheapest offering prices ranging from £20.

Some 24% of the providers were charging more than £200 – with the Mayfair GP clinic listed as £575, although its own website said prices start at £399.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has asked the competition watchdog to investigate the market for travel PCR tests in response to concerns about the cost for families travelling abroad.

Lib Dem health spokeswoman Munira Wilson said: “International travel cannot become a luxury that only the wealthy can afford.

“The price of PCR tests for international travel are a rip-off and far higher than most other countries.

“Many have not seen their loved ones abroad since the beginning of the pandemic and the cost of testing is a real barrier to travel.

“When the cost of providing a test is estimated to be £20, why are many companies charging well over £100 and some over £500?

“Testing is vital in our fight against the pandemic, but if it is safe to travel it should be affordable to travel.

“The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to cap the cost of PCR tests for international travel, scrap the VAT on tests and cut the red tape that is keeping prices high.”

Travellers who are not fully vaccinated arriving in England from amber list countries, such as Spain or France, must self-isolate 10 days upon arrival and take a PCR test on day two and day eight.

They may be able to get out of quarantine early if you pay for a private PCR test to be taken on day five under the Test to Release scheme.

Those with two vaccines only need to take a PCR test on day two of their arrival and can skip self-isolation – the same rules apply to those who are under the age of 18 regardless of their vaccination status.

Anyone returning from a green list country need only have proof of a negative Covid-19 test before travel, fill in a passenger locator form and take a test on day two after arrival.

The Lib Dems compared the situation to Greece and Italy – who have capped their test prices to £34 and £52 respectively – and France, where tests are free for French citizens.

Mr Javid acknowledged that the cost of the tests can act as a barrier to travel, particularly for families.

In a letter to Competition and Markets Authority chief executive Andrea Coscelli, Mr Javid said: “We have all experienced enormous disruption to our lives over this pandemic, but it is not right if some families experience yet further disruption unnecessarily because of potentially unfair practices in the market for private travel tests.

“It is important that the sensible measures we have introduced at the borders are fair and transparent and don’t involve unnecessary costs or low quality provision to people who have made so many sacrifices during this pandemic.”

He asked the CMA 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”.

Mr Javid added: “I would be grateful if you would provide me with advice on what further steps we might take to stamp out any exploitative behaviour in this market and would also urge you to take action to prevent such exploitation where you can under your existing powers.”

A CMA spokesman said: “We are aware of concerns about the evolving markets for Covid-19 tests for international travellers.

“We look forward to providing the Secretary of State with advice on how best to ensure that travellers have access to tests that are affordable and reliable.”

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