11 August 2021

Covid tests for travel should be capped at £40 to save aviation sector – Tory MP

11 August 2021

Private Covid-19 tests should be capped at £40, a Conservative MP has said, as a watchdog looking into the testing market confirmed a review could take up to a month.

The move would allow more people to travel abroad, putting aviation “back on a sustainable path to recovery”, according to Henry Smith, who is the chairman of the Future of Aviation All-Party Parliamentary Group.

A list of providers offering PCR tests which meet minimum standards on the Government website shows more than 100 outlets charging £200 or more.

The summer is almost gone, but it isn’t too late to put aviation back on a sustainable path to recovery, and save as much sector employment as possible

Mr Smith, MP for Crawley, wrote in The Telegraph: “Every single traveller, including fully vaccinated arrivals from green countries with vanishingly low rates of Covid, are being treated as potential vectors of some dangerous new variant, and must pay through the nose for a battery of tests that on average still cost around £100 per traveller.

“How many businesses, or theatres, or restaurants, could survive if the Government slapped a £100 tax on each transaction. Very few. Yet that is what we are asking the travel sector to endure, where the costs of the mandated tests are sometimes several times the cost of the actual plane ticket.

“The real risk is that air travel becomes the preserve only of the wealthy, for whom adding £400 to the cost of a family week in Spain is no big deal. ”

He added: “Government needs to build on recent progress with vaccination exemptions from quarantine by eliminating testing requirements from low-risk countries, and by capping the price of PCR tests to something like £40 – if and where they are still needed.

“The summer is almost gone, but it isn’t too late to put aviation back on a sustainable path to recovery, and save as much sector employment as possible.”

It comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid asked the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate the cost of travel PCR tests in response to concerns about the cost for families travelling abroad.

The Health Secretary has also called for a review into the costs (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)

However, in a letter replying to Mr Javid, the CMA said it would report its recommendations “within the next month”.

The letter, sent on Monday by CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli, said: “We are aware of concerns about the evolving markets for Covid-19 tests for international travellers, concerns about price, the quality of service people are getting from test providers and what happens when things go wrong.

“The CMA’s work throughout the pandemic has focused on protecting consumers and fair-dealing businesses and we welcome the opportunity to explore the issues in the PCR testing market in more depth.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Last week the Health and Social Care Secretary requested urgent advice from the CMA to help stamp out any exploitative behaviour in the private testing market, such as excessive pricing or misleading claims.

“While we await the CMA’s advice, the Government will continue to ensure testing providers are held to account by the independent United Kingdom Accreditation Service.

“Companies that fail to meet the high standards required will be removed from our list of approved suppliers without hesitation.”

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