Rip-off fears as firms charge up to £150 for ‘cheaper’ lateral flow travel tests

·2-min read
Luton Airport Covid testing - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Luton Airport Covid testing - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Half-term holidaymakers are at risk of a new Covid test rip-off as some firms seek to charge up to £150 for the "cheaper" lateral flow swabs to be allowed for foreign travel from Monday.

The Government is due to launch a new "bespoke" list of lateral flow test providers from 4am on Friday, with fully jabbed travellers able to book their swabs ready for their return next week.

However, analysis by The Telegraph of the current firms on the official list that already offer lateral flow swabs show they are charging up to 20 times the price of tests available in Europe.

The Government's switch from the more expensive PCR tests to cheaper lateral flow swabs for returning travellers is designed to give foreign travel a boost by saving families hundreds of pounds.

But the analysis of existing providers reveals the costs range from £17.99 – offered by 001 Expert Covid Testing UK – to £150 by The Private GP Clinic in Sevenoaks, Kent.

At least half a dozen are pitched at £100 or more, although the costs were inflated by offering a bespoke on-site testing service rather than the "click and collect at home" tests the Government has allowed.

A significant number were also priced at £50 or more, compared with all the major European destinations offering lateral flow tests at €30 or less (£25.32). Even the cheapest failed to disclose in their headline price advertised on gov.uk that packaging and posting will add £10 to the cost.

From Monday, any fully jabbed holidaymaker will be able to use lateral flow tests on their return to the UK. If they test positive, they can get a free PCR test on the NHS to check their result.

PCR tests have averaged around £70, with the most expensive at £300. It is understood the "bespoke" list for lateral flow tests will include 25 firms specifically authorised to provide them.

One company told The Telegraph they were pitching at £19.99 for "click and collect"and £35 for on site tests – around what the travel industry is hoping will be the average.

Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK, said it was vital the Government avoided a repeat of the "blatant rip-offs" experienced with PCR tests, while Karen Dee, the chief executive of the Airport Operators' Association, said a failure to cut costs would mean the testing for travel market was "broken".

Under the plans, travellers will generally book tests before their return, register them on their passenger locator form, take the tests at home and send a picture of the completed swab to the test provider.

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