The cost of travel tests from NHS Test and Trace for people who arrive from abroad into the UK is to be cut by a fifth, the Health Department has said.
It is to go down from £88 to £68 for UK travellers who have come from green list countries, or those who have arrived from amber list countries and have been fully vaccinated.
The cost for people arriving from amber list countries who are not fully vaccinated is to go down from £170 to £136 for two tests.
Ten day review
Health Secretary Sajid Javid also said there will be a 10-day internal review starting this weekend of the pricing and standards of service from providers of the tests that are to be taken by those who have returned to England on days two and eight of their arrival from abroad.
Mr Javid said that the cost of PCR testing can be “a barrier” to people who were looking forward to taking a summer holiday.
Consumers and families need to be protected from “exploitative practices”, according to Javid, who said he wants to ensure that high quality tests are available at a reasonable price.
NHS Test and Trace advertises these tests alongside private companies’ testing packages and they are available to buy to fulfil the UK government’s testing requirements for international travel.
'Providers are acting like cowboys'
Javid said he has ordered his department to urgently review the list of private providers on gov.uk to ensure pricing is clearer and transparent.
He added: “Any provider found to be misleading the public will be kicked off.
“Too many providers are acting like cowboys and that needs to stop. The public should be allowed to enjoy their summer holidays without having to face excessive costs or anxiety.”
Call for more affordable testing
Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee, who described the cost of testing for travel as “sky-high”, said: “However, this small reduction is little more than tinkering and does not go anywhere near far enough to meaningfully cut the costs of travel.”
She called on the government to “get a grip on testing and replace costly PCR tests with more affordable rapid tests for low-risk countries and bring international travel in line with the rest of the economy”.
The price reduction comes as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it is looking at whether there are any “immediate actions” the government can take amid concerns about the high cost of PCR tests for travel abroad.
The competition watchdog had previously confirmed it will look into issues around testing, following a request from Javid, but said it will give its recommendations “within the next month”.
Now the watchdog has said it is also looking at “steps that could be considered in the interim” to address what it described as a “particularly pressing issue”.
The CMA said it is looking at three areas – whether individual PCR providers may be breaching their obligations under consumer law and should be subject to enforcement action; whether there are structural problems in the market for PCR tests, affecting price or reliability; and whether there are any immediate actions that the Government can take in the meantime.
Some providers offering PCR tests which meet minimum standards have been charging £200 or more.
This week, Conservative MP Henry Smith, who is the chairman of the Future of Aviation All-Party Parliamentary Group, said private Covid tests should be capped at £40.
He said this would allow more people to travel abroad, putting aviation “back on a sustainable path to recovery”.