Government urged to cut PCR swab ‘scam’ costs for UK holidaymakers returning from green countries

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The health ministry was urged yesterday to cut covid test scam costs for returning vacationers.

MEPs and industry heads are lashing out at the government for asking double what the cheapest private provider does for post-holiday PCR swabs.

It is currently demanding £88 for a post-arrival ‘gold standard’ PCR test and £170 for a pack of two tests.

That’s double the £44 and £84 respectively charged by firm RT Diagnostics, the cheapest government-approved private provider.

There are more than 70 companies that charge less than the government, according to a list of approved providers on its website.

MEPs and industry heads are lashing out at the government for asking double what the cheapest private provider does for post-holiday PCR swabs. (File photo)

Government prices could add more than £350 to the cost of a holiday abroad for a family of four in a greenlisted country – returning holidaymakers must take one PCR smear on day two.

The bill after returning from an amber country, requiring two smears on days two and eight, would be close to £700.

Critics last night said it was a farce that the government is charging more than dozens of private companies – while asking them to cut their prices to make foreign holidays more affordable.

Private providers would be outraged that they expect to lower their prices while the Ministry of Health charges more.

Research found that while the cost of a single PCR test in the UK averaged around £120, the average across eight of the continent’s most popular holiday destinations was just £62.

This is partly due to the fact that several European countries are already abolishing VAT on tests, introducing a price cap or offering them for free.

It has led to calls for ministers to intervene to cut the cost of tests to prevent UK families from being priced out of travel abroad.

Government prices could add more than £350 to the cost of an overseas holiday for a family of four in a country on the green list

Government prices could add more than £350 to the cost of an overseas holiday for a family of four in a country on the green list

A Daily Mail campaign is supporting calls for ministers to start abolishing VAT on PCR tests so that they can be made more easily available.

While the price has fallen in recent weeks as new companies hit the market, only a handful of the more than 300 private providers listed on the government’s website offer a single PCR test for less than £60 per person. .

The government swabs are provided by NHS Test and Trace and the firm Corporate Travel Management, through which people are also required to book quarantine hotels.

Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said: ‘No one from the government has been able to explain why these NHS costs are so much higher.

‘The NHS must lead by example and cut costs to stimulate the private market.

“It smells like an uproar and the Department of Health needs to do more to get together and focus relentlessly on savings for families desperate to get out.”

Steve Heapy, from Jet2, said: ‘Currently, NHS Test and Trace charges holidaymakers higher fees than test companies. This should not be the case and the Ministry of Health should lead by example.

The current testing regime threatens to deter hardworking families, leaving travel the preserve of the wealthy.

Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said: 'The NHS must lead by example and cut costs to boost the private market'

Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said: ‘The NHS must lead by example and cut costs to boost the private market’

“The UK government has previously said it will cut testing costs, but we are still waiting for action.”

Tory MP Henry Smith, chairman of the Future of Aviation group of MPs, said: “These figures show that despite welcome efforts to reduce testing costs, there is much more to be done and done, and the government must lead by example by aligning costs with private providers and abolishing VAT.’

Heathrow chief John Holland-Kaye said PCR testing should not be necessary for those returning from low-risk green countries, and cheaper devices for fast lateral flow should be allowed.

A ‘gold standard’ PCR test – so called because they are considered more accurate but take longer to process – could then only be done if the rapid test was positive.

The government last night denied attempts to cash in on travelers, claiming the NHS test and trace swabs were deliberately priced ‘mid-market’ to ensure that ‘private providers can also compete fairly’.

There is no obligation to choose the government test package after arrival rather than that of a private provider.

Travelers can book an approved private listed on the government website, or the government itself through the Corporate Travel Management website.

A government spokesman said: ‘NHS Test and Trace provides testing for international arrivals, along with other private providers who meet rigorous testing standards, and cost in the middle of the market, to ensure private providers can also compete fairly.

‘This price is regularly reviewed.’

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