The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has argued the government should bear the cost of “hugely expensive” and unnecessary PCR tests for fully jabbed citizens. The body claims the tests are deterring Britons from travelling.
The UK health secretary, Sajid Javid, requested the Competition & 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.
Now WTTC, which represents the global private tourism sector, says it is time the government stepped up to pay for people’s PCR tests in full, if they are fully jabbed. This would remove the huge financial burden, which is depressing demand for travel, effectively halting the revival of international travel.
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.
Virginia Messina, WTTC 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 tourism sector, she added.
“At the very least, we support the investigation by the CMA to look into the excessive pricing of PCR tests which is deterring the revival of international travel.”