The UK’s covid testing system for holidaymakers risks collapsing this summer as private labs are failing to deliver results on time, a Which report has found.
Some passengers arriving in the UK are having to extend their quarantine or pay for additional Covid tests because of the delays, according to an investigation by the consumer group.
It warned the system may not have the capacity to cope with just weeks before international travel is set to open on May 17.
Just four of the Which w about the capacity of the UK’s travel testing system just weeks before international travel is set to re-open.
Only four private test providers out of more than 500 on the Government’s list of companies have been accredited. And of those four, only two offered test kits on days two and eight for “amber” country holidaymakers and travellers.
Currently, anyone arriving in the UK (unless exempt) must quarantine for a mandatory 10 days and take a PCR test on day two and day eight of their quarantine. These tests typically cost between £160 and £200, but can cost over £500.
Travellers must receive negative results for both tests to leave quarantine after day 10. However, social media and review sites have been flooded with complaints about test result delays, with a Facebook group for people suffering problems with the system amassing around 1,500 members.
Which said it had also heard from travellers who did not receive their test results within 10 days. Without test results, travellers face having to pay hundreds of pounds for additional tests or stay in quarantine for longer than they need to, potentially causing problems for those who cannot work from home.
Erkal Taskin, who returned from Turkey after visiting his ill father in early April, told Which? that he did not receive his day two test kit from Anglia, a government-listed test provider, until he had been in the UK for a week.
Only after he contacted Anglia through Twitter and Which? responded to his tweets did it promise him a refund. It finally gave him his day two result 15 days after he had arrived in the country, and he still has not received his day eight result.
He added: “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.”
Another person complained on Trustpilot about a different provider, claiming that after they didn’t receive results for their day two test, they paid for a ‘Day Five Test to Release Kit’ – which would have allowed them to end their quarantine early on receipt of a negative result – but said “now on day nine, [we] still have no results, so [it was a] waste of £110 plus £175.”
While some providers have blamed delays with Royal Mail deliveries, Royal Mail told Which? there have been no reported delays in its network related to use of the company’s priority post boxes for managing travellers’ test results.
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “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.”
Anglia did not respond to requests for comment.