U.K.’s Travel Covid Test Prices Slashed Following Criticism
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. government lowered the cost of Covid tests provided by the National Health Service for international travel following criticism from the competition watchdog and the tourism industry.
The cost of tests will be reduced to 68 pounds ($94.30) from 88 pounds for one test and to 136 pounds from 170 pounds for two, the U.K.’s Department for Health and Social Care said in a statement.
The announcement follows months of complaints from consumers, travel companies and even the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority that tests are needlessly pricey.
Travelers are required to take at least three tests per round trip abroad, adding significant costs to holiday travel, especially for families. The tests in Britain can cost anywhere from 23.99 pounds to 575 pounds on the government website.
The government has faced a series of complaints over the proliferation of private firms offering polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for travel, with critics warning that regulation is too lax and that the market is a “complete Wild West.”
“Too many providers are acting like cowboys and that needs to stop,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement. “The public should be allowed to enjoy their summer holidays without having to face excessive costs or anxiety.”
The travel industry has complained for months that the cost of tests is too high, exacerbating the struggles faced by the sector in the pandemic. Some European countries have capped the cost of tests.
The lower prices announced so far only apply to tests offered by the NHS. Most travelers book tests from private labs, many of which are already charging much less than the lower limit being set by the NHS. British Airways, for instance, offers a discount code to customers with many test providers charging less than 50 pounds.
The CMA is investigating the price of Covid tests for travelers, and Javid said he’ll review the initial advice from the watchdog in the coming days.
Javid said he has also ordered his department to “urgently review” the list of private providers on the government website to “ensure pricing is clearer and transparent.” Any provider that’s found to be misleading the public will be removed urgently, and the review concludes in 10 days.
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