Boris Johnson’s government is being urged to subsidise costly PCR tests which can massively inflate the cost of a trip abroad for holidaymakers.
The World Travel & Tourism Council ( WTTC ) says the UK government should bear the cost of hugely expensive and unnecessary PCR tests for fully jabbed citizens, which are deterring Britons from travelling overseas.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid has called on the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) step in to investigate ‘excessive’ pricing and ‘exploitative practices’ among PCR Covid test firms.
This follows widespread reports of vast differences paid by travellers for PCR tests by different companies.
Currently, the cost of PCR tests varies enormously between providers, with the average costing around £75. However, some firms are offering express PCR test results within 90 minutes at a cost of up to £400.
This makes UK PCR tests among the costliest in Europe – partly due to the 20 per cent VAT charge applied on top.
Genomic sequencing data from PCR tests is harvested by the government to rapidly identify variants of concern, understand transmission and slow the spread, however WTTC challenges why consumers should have to pay for this process.
There have also been images of uncollected packages spilling out of a drop-off point for a testing firm used by some of the nation’s biggest airlines and tour operators.
The global tourism body believes if the government won’t pick up the bill for PCR tests, it should at the very least replace the need for PCR Day two tests from green and amber countries with affordable and effective antigen tests, for fully vaccinated travellers. As in other countries, only those testing positive should need to take a PCR test.
Virginia Messina, WTTC senior vice president and acting chief executive, 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. More affordable antigen tests, with PCR tests for those who do test positive, will help keep travellers safe and make taking a trip overseas within the budget of most people.
“But 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 and tourism sector.
“Unless the government sees sense and accepts the financial responsibility for PCR tests for the fully vaccinated, WTTC fears the sector is going to continue to buckle while demand for travel remains depressed.”
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The WTTC also called upon the UK government to abandon the traffic light system and replace it with green and red list categories.
These more easily understandable rules, for double-jabbed and unvaccinated travellers, would let consumers know exactly where they stand to make informed decisions about where to travel.
Returning travellers would only need an affordable antigen test, with additional costly PCR tests reserved for those who tested positive. Unvaccinated visitors would continue to take a test on departure, as well as a PCR test on Day two of their return.
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