independent– The government has cut the price of NHS coronavirus tests for travel by £20 amid criticism of the costs being imposed on holidaymakers.
Travellers, including people who have been fully vaccinated, are having to shell out hundreds of pounds on PCR tests – a requirement that has been deterring people from going abroad.
Under the price cut, the cost of a travel test from NHS Test and Trace will be reduced from £88 to £68 for one test and from £170 to £136 for two.
People returning to the UK, even from countries on the green list, have to take a test before they depart for England and a test two days after they arrive.
The requirement means testing is often more expensive than flights, accommodation, or both combined – putting foreign holidays out of the reach of millions who would normally travel on a budget.
The NHS tests are advertised alongside private providers as an option for returning holidaymakers.
And there are even more requirements for people returning from amber list countries and those who have not been fully vaccinated, while people returning from red list countries must pay thousands to stay in hotel quarantine.
The government says it will review the list of private travel testing providers and clamp down on “misleading pricing”, while a wider Competition and Markets Authority review of the market for PCR testing is ongoing.
NHS Covid-19 tests are free for domestic purposes but any required for travel must be paid for.
The government says the tests, which sit in addition to any arrival and departure requirements imposed by the country being visited, are required to keep possible new vaccine-resistant variants out of the UK.
But Munira Wilson, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson slammed the government, saying: “It is disgraceful that private companies are profiteering from the pandemic, and this announcement does nothing to stop that.”
“The health secretary is merely tinkering around the edges. He needs to stop the dithering and finally introduce a price cap for PCR tests.
“This is a slap in the face for all those who are desperate to see their families abroad for the first time since the start of the pandemic, and those who have saved up for a holiday.”
Announcing the £20 price cut, the health secretary said: “I know how much people have looked forward to their summer holidays and that the cost of PCR testing can be a barrier to that. That is why I am determined to protect consumers and hardworking families from exploitative practices and ensure high-quality tests are available at a reasonable price.
“I am pleased to announce that with immediate effect we’re slashing the price of day two and eight tests from NHS Test and Trace by a fifth – this will benefit people right across the UK.
“I’ve also ordered my department to urgently review the list of private providers on gov.uk to ensure pricing is clearer and transparent. Any provider found to be misleading the public will be kicked off.
“Too many providers are acting like cowboys and that needs to stop. The public should be allowed to enjoy their summer holidays without having to face excessive costs or anxiety.”