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Covid testing system at risk of ‘collapse’ when travel reopens

Coronavirus tests for people in quarantine are routinely arriving late, warns consumer group

The UK’s coronavirus testing system for holidaymakers could “buckle” this summer as private labs are failing to keep up with demand. 

Consumer group Which? has warned that Covid tests for people in quarantine are routinely arriving late, with passengers having to extend their isolation period or pay for additional Covid tests because of the delays.

With passenger numbers just a fraction of their usual levels due to restrictions on overseas travel, Which? says the system may not be able to “cope with demand” when international travel resumes to a limited number of countries on 17 May, says The Telegraph

Travellers arriving in the UK must currently quarantine for a mandatory ten days and take a PCR test on day two and day eight of that period. These tests typically cost between £160 and £200, but can cost over £500. Test users must receive negative results for both these tests before they can leave quarantine on day ten of their isolation.

But Which? has said social media and review sites are already “flooded” with complaints from people who have suffered delays in receiving their test kits and results.

Holidaymakers could also be fined up to £2,000 if they fail to comply with government rules, reports Metro.

Some providers have pointed to delays with Royal Mail deliveries, but Royal Mail has said there are no delays in its network in relation to the use of priority postboxes for travellers’ test results. 

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel magazine, said: “The UK’s travel testing system can’t cope with demand, even when relatively small numbers of people are travelling,” the Independent reports.

“It’s clear the system could buckle under the pressure when mass international travel restarts and hundreds of thousands more people are reliant on it. Travellers shouldn’t have to shop around for something as crucial as a test provider. They simply need a service that is accessible, reliable and delivered on time.”

The Department of Health and Social Care told The Telegraph it was “carefully monitoring” any issues raised by the public, and was “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.”

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