Health Secretary finally acts on Covid travel test rip-off: Sajid Javid cuts cost of official PCR kit to encourage private firms to slash their prices
- Health Secretary Sajid Javid admits the Government’s own costs were too high
- The Government’s single post-holiday PCR test package will fall from £88 to £68
- Mr Javid also accused some private testing firms of ‘acting like cowboys’
Health Secretary Sajid Javid admitted the Government’s own costs were too high and said its single post-holiday PCR test package will fall from £88 to £68
Ministers finally moved to tackle the travel testing rip-off last night – slashing the cost of their own Covid tests by a fifth in the hope private firms will follow.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid admitted the Government’s own costs were too high and said its single post-holiday PCR test package will fall from £88 to £68.
A two-swab NHS Test and Trace package will be cut from £170 to £136.
Mr Javid also accused some private testing firms of ‘acting like cowboys’ by advertising misleading prices on the Government website and vowed to boot them off within days.
But the changes were dismissed by the travel industry last night, with bosses saying the price cuts amounted to ‘tinkering’.
The head of Gatwick Airport said testing should be removed altogether for the double vaccinated to restore ‘shattered’ passenger confidence and help the industry through a desperate time.
Ministers were branded ‘hypocrites’ this week after repeatedly calling on private firms to drop their prices but failing to cut their own for summer.
The Mail reported on Thursday how the Department of Health was charging more than four times what the cheapest private provider was advertising on the Government’s website. This ratio has doubled from earlier this summer.
It is understood that officials do not want NHS Test and Trace travel swabs to dominate the market and hope the move will nudge private firms into bringing their own prices down so more families looking for a well-earned break can afford to go abroad.
Industry insiders have previously said the Government’s own prices have inflated the market and that they won’t bring down their own costs until ministers move first.
Officials will now also conduct a rapid review of the firms listed on the Government website and boot off any deemed to be ripping off or misleading consumers. The internal review will start this weekend and last ten days. Providers failing to meet necessary standards will be immediately removed.
It will run alongside the review being conducted by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), ordered by Mr Javid last week after a flood of complaints from customers about receiving swabs and results late or not at all.
This has led to some having to extend their quarantine period or even miss flights.
Announcing the latest moves, Mr Javid suggested he was expecting the CMA initial findings within days so swift action can be taken.
Officials will now also conduct a rapid review of the firms listed on the Government website and boot off any deemed to be ripping off or misleading consumers
He added: ‘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 hard-working 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 2 and 8 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.’
There are more than 400 private firms listed on the Government’s website. Yesterday, the average price of a single PCR swab across them all was £90.
Prices are listed between £20 and £400.
However, as the Mail reported this week, the cheapest rates are often not realistically obtainable for many, as when clicking through to each firm’s website they are mostly out of stock or offered in centres, meaning many would have to travel hundreds of miles to take advantage of them. It is this practice that Mr Javid is looking to clamp down on.
There are more than 400 private firms listed on the Government’s website. Yesterday, the average price of a single PCR swab across them all was £90
However, the new Government price could still add more than £250 to the cost of a foreign break for a family of four.
For an unvaccinated family, it could add more than £500.
The travel industry last night dismissed the price cuts as ‘tinkering’ and said they ‘do not go anywhere near far enough’.
Karen Dee, CEO of the Airport Operators Association, said: ‘It is time for the Government to get a grip on testing and replace costly PCR tests with more affordable rapid tests for low-risk countries and bring international travel in line with the rest of the economy.’
Paul Charles, of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: ‘Even with the changes, test costs are still far too high to restore confidence to travel, and also far higher than most European countries.
‘Providers who are making substantial profits during the pandemic are acting unethically when consumers are being forced to take these PCR tests by Government. It’s the policy that urgently needs reviewing, not just pricing.’
A guest holds a COVID testing kit at the window of the Radisson Blu hotel near Heathrow Airport, London, where they are undertaking a 10-day quarantine in the Government-designated quarantine hotel
Queen Elizabeth rules the waves again
By Transport Correspondent
The Queen Elizabeth took to the high seas yesterday for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Holidaymakers boarding the ocean liner – one of Cunard’s most luxurious and spacious – hailed the voyage as the ‘beginning of the end of the pandemic’ for them.
Many said it was the first cruise they had been on since we were plunged into lockdown last year. Only the double-jabbed were allowed on board.
The sold out seven-day domestic voyage, which will take 800 passengers along the Jurassic Coast and around the Isles of Scilly before heading to Scotland, will return to Southampton next Friday.
It set off last night, marking the Queen Elizabeth’s first voyage since March last year. The liner boasts staterooms, suites, a plethora of restaurants and even a shop-lined promenade.
Passengers spoke of their elation to be back on the seas after so long. Tim Dillon, 74, and wife Kate, 71, from Hull, last went on a cruise two years ago. Mr Dillon, who used to manage his own engineering firm, said: ‘We usually cruise four or five times a year but this is our first for two years and we are looking forward to getting back into it. It’s a big moment – the beginning of the end of the pandemic, or at least we hope so.’
He added: ‘We have to be double-vaccinated and we have to get a test now before we board. I don’t know how much safer you are going to get.’
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