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Travel chiefs call on ministers to curb rip-off Covid tests to help revitalise economy and boost foreign trips

Posted at Jul 30, 2021

Travel chiefs and business leaders demanded ministers act to reduce the cost of rip-off tests for holidaymakers.

Ministers announced on Wednesday that restrictions on international travel will be scrapped – allowing cruises to begin again.

They also said that double-jabbed US and EU travellers will be able to travel to the UK without the need to quarantine.

But there was nothing said about the high cost of tests that travellers must take to prove their Covid negative status, which can be hundreds of pounds.

Travel chiefs and business leaders demanded ministers act to reduce the cost of rip-off tests for holidaymakers

Abta, the group which represents tour operators and travel agents, welcomed the resumption of cruising but warned barriers remain. A spokesman said: ‘We need to see the Government make further progress on making testing more affordable and proportionate, and we need to see more destinations added to the green list at next week’s review.’

Willie Walsh, the director of airline group IATA and former head of British Airways, said: ‘Why are travellers forced to test twice, the second time using expensive PCR tests?’ 

Claire Walker, co-executive director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said firms wanted to see cheaper tests for foreign visitors to the UK to incentivise them to come.

She added: ‘These costs must not be allowed to become an impediment to the viability of businesses.’

Yesterday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said easing restrictions for EU and US travellers coming to England was a ‘smart, sensible’ approach. He admitted the Government ‘cannot guarantee’ that US and EU travellers will not try to show fake vaccination certificates but said it was ‘highly unlikely’.

Bill for testing cost almost as much as flights

By Martin Beckford for the Daily Mail

It was in the dark days of the winter lockdown that I booked a summer family holiday to Spain.

Like millions of Britons, I wanted my children to have something to look forward to while stuck at home.

And I felt sure that the vaccination programme would see foreign travel back on track within a few months.

Months of anxiety later, my gamble appeared to have paid off as foreign travel restarted and then double-jabbed passengers like me were told we would not have to isolate on return from Amber list countries – just days before we were due to fly. But it quickly became apparent that not all of the ever-changing rules had been relaxed as I had hoped.

To get into Spain, my eldest child, 12, would have to take a commercial test less than 48 hours before arrival – but some providers said it took that long to get the results. And what if her swab got lost in the post?

It seemed safer to go to a drive-thru centre for a quick test that would be accepted in Spain and the ‘fit to fly’ declaration within an hour – but that cost £136 for my daughter and me. I got one myself in case my vaccination certificate wasn’t accepted.

To our relief, we tested negative and last Tuesday we breezed into Luton airport with only a cursory check of our printed test certificates, and had our Health Control Form QR codes successfully scanned at Alicante.

To get back into the UK, all travellers have to fill out a Passenger Locator Form online – and this requires a reference number to prove you have bought Covid tests for two days after your return

Getting back to the UK this week was even more costly, however. A Spanish clinic charged us 190 Euros (£162) for two lateral flow tests although they did check our blood pressure too, probably wise given the size of the bill they had just handed me.

The local doctor signed a letter to show at the boarding gate – but the airline staff barely glanced at it, let alone checked to see we hadn’t just printed it ourselves at home.

The biggest testing was still to come, however. To get back into the UK, all travellers have to fill out a Passenger Locator Form online – and this requires a reference number to prove you have bought Covid tests for two days after your return.

Although only 11-year-olds and older have to take pre-arrival tests, anyone over four has to get a post-arrival one so that covered all three of my children as well as me – even though I have had both jabs and already provided two negative tests in the past ten days.

In total I have spent £598 on tests – as against £656 on flights. Anyone with more than one adult or teenager in their party would not see much change from £1,000

The Government website claims prices start at £24 – but the cheapest I could find were £75 for self-swab ones. So that came to £300 for all of us.

And, of course, after we had spent half an hour queuing at Passport Control, the over-stretched officers had no time to study our form details. In total I have spent £598 on tests – as against £656 on flights. Anyone with more than one adult or teenager in their party would not see much change from £1,000.

It makes sense to test passengers arriving from high-risk destinations, but why should young children and the fully-vaccinated pay such a high price for taking a well-earned break in a country the Government deems safe?

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