System for testing returning holidaymakers is ‘in danger of collapse when mass travel returns’
- Ministers talking optimistically about families able to enjoy overseas breaks
- There will still be a Government requirement to take tests for coronavirus
- Which? said testing regime was already failing to deal with people arriving
The system for testing returning holidaymakers could collapse when mass international travel resumes, consumer experts warn.
Ministers are talking optimistically about families being able to enjoy summer breaks overseas, but these will still be covered by a requirement for Covid tests.
Even travellers returning to the UK from safe countries on an official ‘green list’ will need to take tests on their return.
The consumer group Which? said the testing regime was already failing to deal with the relatively small number of people arriving in the UK from overseas, and it could be overwhelmed when large numbers of Britons come back from hotspots.
Social media and review sites have been flooded with complaints about test result delays, with a Facebook group for those suffering problems with the system amassing 1,500 members. Which? has heard from travellers who did not receive their test results for more than ten days.
Ministers are talking optimistically about families being able to enjoy summer breaks overseas, but these will still be covered by a requirement for Covid tests
Travellers who do not have a negative test result could be required to quarantine until it comes through, meaning they would be unable to return to work. Apart from delays in getting results, travellers face having to pay high fees for the tests. The tests typically cost between £160 and £200 a person, but can be as much as £500.
The editor of Which? Travel, Rory Boland, said: ‘The UK’s travel testing system can’t cope with demand. 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.’
Returning travellers will require one or two post-arrival tests depending on which country they have visited.
Erkal Taskin, who returned from Turkey after visiting his sick father in early April, told Which? he did not receive his day-two test kit until he had been back in the UK for a week, and has still not been given the result of his day-eight test.
He said: ‘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.’
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel magazine, said: ‘The UK’s travel testing system can’t cope with demand, even when relatively small numbers of people are travelling.
Even travellers returning to the UK from safe countries on an official ‘green list’ will need to take tests on their return
‘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.’
The Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement: ‘We are carefully monitoring issues raised by the public, raising every complaint with private test providers.
‘We also monitor all providers’ performance, including their delivery and test turnaround times.
‘We will take rapid action against any company that is providing an inadequate service.
‘In the first instance, they will receive a warning and are given five days to demonstrate they have addressed concerns, and if not, they are removed from the gov.uk list.’