COVID test providers are at risk of collapsing when mass travel resumes again, Which? has warned – sparking chaos for holidaymakers with late results and long quarantines.
Travellers have already found that they are having to stay longer in quarantine or pay extra for their tests to arrive in time.
The current rules require anyone returning to the UK to have a negative Covid test before arrival, as well as quarantine for 10 days, either at home or at a hotel with two more Covid tests on day two and eight.
However, with a travel ban still in place and only essential travel currently allowed, it has sparked fears that the testing system could be overwhelmed when Brits start going on holiday again.
Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, said: “The UK’s travel testing system can’t cope with demand, even when relatively small numbers of people are travelling.
“It’s clear the system could buckle under the pressure when mass international travel restarts and hundreds of thousands more people are reliant on it.
“Travellers shouldn’t have to shop around for something as crucial as a test provider – they simply need a service that is accessible, reliable, and delivered on time.
“It is critical that the Government addresses issues with testing ahead of restarting international travel, and ensure that travellers are not left to the mercy of poor quality providers or unreliable services when trying to do the right thing in following government requirements to travel safely.”
Erkal Taskin, who returned from Turkey told Which? that he didn’t receive his day two test kit until he had already been in the country for seven days.
He got his day two results, 15 days after being in the country.
He explained: “I wasn’t sure when I could leave my house and there was no one to ask. I ended up waiting for so long before I could go back to work, which was a huge problem.”
Other complaints on social media say they didn’t receive their results, or that they paid extra to leave quarantine through the Test to Release scheme, only for results not to come in on time.
Earlier this month, more than 500 travellers arriving in the UK blasted a Covid testing firm after their kits failed to turn up.
Many said they had paid hundreds of pounds to 001doctor — top of the list of approved suppliers on a government website.
In an online statement 001doctor said it had not been warned of the number of tests required, and asked to be removed from the government list after processing more than 1,000 refunds.
Oncologica, one of four accredited test providers by the government, apologised on their website for delays in sending the kits due to “unprecedented increase in Covid testing enquiries and kit orders received since government travel rules were introduced”.
However, they said in a statement they can process up to 40,000 Covid tests per day, and had not yet reached capacity.
Another accredited provider, National Pathology, said that they have already performed more than 80,000 of the day two and day eight Covid kits since March, although also apologised for “large scale disruption to the delivery of both kits and samples”.
Two other companies – Source Bioscience and Eurofins – have been accredited by the government on a list of 500 providers, although neither offer the combined day two and eight Covid kits.
When the UK travel ban lifts for non-essential trips abroad, it is hoped that a number of popular holiday destinations could be placed on the “green” list which will not require a quarantine.
This will still require a pre-arrival Covid test and a test on day two, although the government has said they are working on making them cheaper as they can cost upwards of £120 per person.
Airlines and tour operators are already offering discounted PCR tests for countries which require them.
Ryanair has teamed up with test provider Randox and will let any passengers book the tests for half the standard cost.
Here are the other airlines offering discounted tests this summer.