Great Britain

Ditch expensive PCR tests ‘ripping off’ travellers, Tory MPs tell government

Conservatives MPs have urged Boris Johnson’s government to ditch advice recommending British travellers take the most expensive type of Covid tests, claiming passengers are being “ripped off”.

Airline bosses have also lamented the decision not to ease requirements for PCR tests – which have been condemned as a “£100-a-head tax on flights” by the industry.

Despite relief at the government’s decision to keep Spain on the amber list, there was anger over new advice urging holidaymakers to take the costly PCR tests before coming home from Spain – though it will not be a legal requirement.

Henry Smith, the Tory chair of the Future of Aviation all-party parliamentary group, urged the government to drop its insistence on PCR tests and encourage use of the cheaper lateral flow tests instead.

Fellow Tory MP Huw Merriman, chairman of the transport select committee, tweeted: “Passengers are being ripped off with expensive PCR tests … This barrier to affordable travel needs to stop now.”

The government has urged travellers arriving in the UK from Spain to take a PCR test for the mandatory pre-departure test “as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country”.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps defended the move on Thursday morning – arguing that the PCR tests were “particularly useful when you’re trying to track the variant”.

He told Sky News: “PCR tests are helpful because they will help out clinicians and scientists work together to keep a very close eye on variants … We’re just reminding people that it helps our scientists sequence the [Covid-19] genome.”

Tourism chiefs are disappointed that travellers coming to the UK are still required to take PCR tests when in the UK. Those coming from an amber list country who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for 10 days and take a PCR test on day two and day eight.

Aviation bosses condemned the “sky-high” cost of the PCR tests – which can typically cost anywhere from £60 to £150 – claiming that they were dampening bookings. Lateral flow tests can cost between £5 and £30.

Meanwhile, quarantine hotel costs are rising to “better reflect the increased costs involved”, according to the government. The rate for solo travellers will rise from £1,750 to £2,285 from next week.

Mr Shapps defended the decision to raise the price of using a quarantine hotel, claiming that it was time for travellers to “cover the cost”.

The transport secretary said: “It is necessary to cover the costs of the quarantine hotels and at the moment the system hasn’t been doing that and it has cost about £75m, so we are keen to ensure people using them are covering the full cost of this service.”

Mr Shapps also said recent reports of sexual harassment and rats in quarantine hotels are “certainly unacceptable”.

The minister told Times Radio: “In terms of the quality of accommodation, this is not Government barracks, these are hotels, and first of all any accusations of crimes need to go straight to the police, and I know that they will have done in those cases.”

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