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"It's a money making exercise": LBC unearths the huge cost of holiday Covid tests

9 September 2021, 11:43 | Updated: 9 September 2021, 16:24

An LBC investigation has found disparities in prices of Covid tests.
An LBC investigation has found disparities in prices of Covid tests. Picture: Alamy
Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

An LBC investigation has found huge disparities in costs from companies providing PCR Covid testing for travellers.

While some tourists have reported firms failing to send out test kits, or even results on time.

At the moment, all travellers coming to the UK from a green or amber list country must book in advance and prove they have ordered a test kit to be taken within two days of landing in the UK.

This is known as a 'day two test,' while un-vaccinated travellers from amber list countries, also have to book a 'day eight test' towards the end of their quarantine period.

There are currently 411 providers listed on the Government website as offering these services, but we've found they show varied, confusing and often misleading prices.

Read more: LBC investigation uncovers fake ‘fit to fly’ testing to travel into the UK

Read more: Cost of NHS Covid tests for people arriving in the UK reduced

An LBC investigation has found disparities in prices of Covid tests.
An LBC investigation has found disparities in prices of Covid tests. Picture: Getty

Last month, the health secretary cut the cost of the travel tests that the NHS provides from £88 to £68 each.

But the private companies promise costs of anything from £20 to £399 pounds.

Labour MP for Exeter Ben Bradshaw told LBC it's damaging the already sinking travel industry.

"Britain is the only country left in Europe that still requires a PCR test after you have arrived back to the country.

"It's a money making exercise for mates of Ministers, the prices charged are far higher than in other countries.

"It's doing more than anything else at the moment to damage the travel industry and destroy jobs."

Read more: Javid asks competition watchdog to investigate 'excessive' cost of PCR tests

Ironically, high costs aren't your first impression when you visit the Gov.UK list, which is stacked with companies that seem to have worked out that if they put a 'plus' or 'zero' at the front of their name, then they go straight to the top of the list.

Many of those in turn, promise tests as low as twenty pounds, but travel journalist Jill Starley-Grainger says that deal is often too good to be true:

"What it often turns out is, that the £20 test will be only if you're willing to travel where that is four to eight hours from your home. Otherwise it will cost you 2, 3, 4 times that. So, it does seem to be a bit of a con."

Even worse, she and I have spoken to lots of people who picked out a company from the Government list, which failed to deliver.

I've heard about tests coming in late, damaged, or never arriving, and similarly of test results coming back so late the traveller has left the country again.

Nick Wilkinson paid £144 for four tests through a company called Expert Medicals when coming back to the UK this summer to see family.

Read more: Travel entry requirements for Portugal: The rules for UK holidaymakers explained

His wife's kit was missing key components, and his didn't even arrive:

"Eventually it turned up on the 20th August, 20 days after I ordered it, and completely useless to me as I had already arrived back in the US by then!"

Then, his wife and children's results took over a week to come back, they got their results just before leaving.

"If a Government website lists the name of a provider of a service that they're telling you it is mandatory that you have, then by inference they are saying they are at least saying that this is a qualified provider. Which obviously this company wasn't."

The Department of Health are keen to stress that they don't endorse any private test provider.

A spokesman said: “Our top priority has always been protecting the public and the robust border and testing regime we have in place is helping minimise the risk of new variants coming into the UK.

“We have already removed 57 providers from the gov.uk list and over 80 private travel testing companies have been issued a warning for inaccurate pricing and face removal from the gov.uk list if they advertise these again.

“The Health and Social Care Secretary has also requested urgent advice from the CMA to help stamp out any exploitative behaviour in the private testing market, such as excessive pricing or misleading claims.”