The cost of traveller PCR tests should be slashed to stop families being priced out of going abroad this Christmas, ministers were told last night.
Travel bosses and MPs called on the Government to either cap prices of the ‘gold standard’ swabs, axe VAT on them or allow holidaymakers to use free NHS ones.
It came as Switzerland effectively ‘red listed’ Britain by subjecting arrivals to ten days of self-quarantine.
There is a growing backlash in the UK against new travel curbs which will increase testing bills by hundreds of pounds.
Costly PCR swabs for returning travellers were ditched in October and replaced with much cheaper rapid lateral flow ones.
Switzerland has 'red listed’ Britain by subjecting arrivals to ten days of self-quarantine
But on Saturday Boris Johnson said all travellers, regardless of vaccination status, will have to return to taking PCR tests by day two of arrival in Britain.
Travellers must self-isolate at home until they get their result. The rule comes into force at 4am tomorrow and is a bid by ministers to better track any spread of the feared new Omicron variant.
But one furious tourism boss branded it a ‘travel tax’, adding that it contradicted the Prime Minister’s claim that ‘this Christmas will be better than last’.
Switzerland’s decision to ‘red list’ the UK means Britons arriving in the country will have to show proof of full vaccination, a negative Covid test and then self-isolate.
The Swiss measures – which came into force at 8pm on Saturday – were also in response to the spread of the Omicron variant.
It threatens to kill off skiing holidays, with the season beginning in Switzerland from mid to late November until late April.
Spain also announced a ban on unvaccinated British tourists after Portugal said it would demand proof of a negative test even for double-jabbed visitors.
Travellers heading back to Britain who have bought rapid tests thinking they would be sufficient now face having to fork out hundreds more pounds for PCR swabs.
Travellers heading back to Britain who have bought rapid tests thinking they would be sufficient now face having to fork out hundreds more pounds for PCR swabs
The more expensive tests are dubbed the ‘gold standard’ because they are processed in labs and can be sequenced to detect Covid variants of concern.
But the average cost of a single swab among more than 450 providers listed on the Government website yesterday was £79.
For a family of five this would add £395 to the cost of a trip abroad. The destination country may also require a test as a condition of entry. By comparison, rapid lateral flow tests are typically about £20 to £25.
Ben Bradshaw MP, who sits on the Commons transport committee, said: ‘There should definitely be a cap, as other European countries have.
This will kill off demand, which was already much lower than the rest of Europe, particularly given the quarantine requirement while waiting for your PCR result.’
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency, said: ‘One of the best things the Government could do is remove VAT on PCR tests to make it less costly for people to travel.’
Of the new restrictions he added: ‘It’s the Christmas present nobody wanted in the sector and it wipes out inbound tourism due to the quarantine while awaiting test results.’