Cheap PCR Tests?
There is currently a high demand for cheap PCR tests. We are constantly working with our partner labs to drive down the prices of the tests and be competitive with other private test providers.
Due to the pandemic, travelling to a foreign country is impossible without COVID-19 PCR tests. Although non-essential foreign travel is banned in the UK right now, it is likely to resume soon. Possibly, as early as 17 May as part of Stage 3 of lockdown lifting.
The steady vaccine rollout and numerous precautionary measures being set up by the government bodes well for holidaymakers. However, almost all the government’s safety initiatives involve PCR testing.
The UK Global Travel Taskforce’s ‘traffic light’ travel system would allow the government to sort countries into categories according to COVID-19 risk levels. Visiting the lowest risk ‘green countries’ would require each individual traveller to take at least two PCR tests: one before leaving the UK and another post-arrival.
People travelling from the UK are not allowed to use the free PCR tests offered by the NHS. Instead, they must take tests offered by private healthcare firms. And these tests are usually not as affordable as people would like, ourselves included.
A single PCR test in the UK can cost on an average around £120 – £150. This is twice as much as what is being charged in Europe. Basically, an individual travelling to a ‘green country’ would be expected to pay an extra £300 on testing alone, if not more.
The high costs of PCR testing are leading to anxiety regarding the future of holidays. The travel industry is concerned about the restrictive test prices barring people from travelling. Airline companies have called on competition watchdog for investigation. Moreover, International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged the UK Competition and Markets Authority to conduct a formal inquiry.
Willie Walsh, IATA director-general, has urged ministers to consider cost-efficient rapid testing and VAT exemptions on PCR testing.
The chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, Karen Dee, said, ‘The cost of testing could act as a significant barrier to the meaningful restart to aviation and should not be underestimated. A summer holiday will be out of reach for many and damage an already badly hit aviation and travel industry even further.’
Many private test providers on the government’s approved list have claimed that more than half of their test prices go to laboratories. Additionally, they stated that high running costs and the uncertain nature of the market are not helping either. They cited substantial overheads such as trained medical staff, delivery fees, renting venues for testing, medical risk assessments and high insurance premiums.
David Evans, joint chief executive of Collinson, said, ‘If we see high volumes, we will get economies of scale and can look at reducing the price. Unfortunately, the government has changed its mind so many times we have had to redevelop our systems, our marketing, our websites – it all builds up to more expense.’
Moreover, sources have pointed to the sheer number of test providers being so many that there are slimmer margins when trying to set competitive prices for cheap PCR tests.
Conversely, a few test providers in the government’s approved list are charging obscenely high prices compared to the rest of the market. There have been reports of certain firms charging customers up to £549 for a Day 2 and Day 8 testing package.
The Day 2 and Day 8 tests are more or less vital for foreign travel.
There are widespread suspicions that a few private firms are ‘profiteering’. A sentiment shared by the transport secretary Grant Shapps. He has stated that high charging firms will be removed from the government’s approved list.
Shapps said, ‘I think that the cost should be cheaper for those private tests. I’ll be driving that down … and potentially even removing providers if they’re not playing ball because I don’t want to see people being ripped off.’
When will cheap PCR tests be available?
With the government considering VAT exemptions on PCR testing and removing high charging firms from its list, a lot can change between now and 17 May. Furthermore, when travel restarts and the volume of test purchases increases, prices should naturally come down.
All in all, there should be a significant drop in PCR testing prices just in time for the summer holidays.
Keep an eye on our travel advice page for the latest travel news and guidance.