The chair of the Transport Select Committee has pledged to “drill down” into why the cost of PCR testing in the UK is far higher compared to other countries.
Hosting a hearing on Wednesday (14 April) Huw Merriman, conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle, said the cost of test components would need to be explored ahead of international travel restarting this summer.
“Why are they [PCR tests] more expensive in this county? Is it because of the country requirements or is it because the industry is charging too much?” he questioned.
The type of Covid testing that should be favoured by government – and the costs involved – were discussed during the committee session with tourism and aviation figures calling for cheaper and quicker methods.
Heathrow’s chief solutions officer, Chris Garton, said using PCR tests as a “blanket approach” for arrivals into the UK would “dissuade hardworking families from wanting to travel due to the sheer cost of testing”.
He suggested using cheaper lateral flow tests to look for infections and then followed if needed by a PCR should the traveller returned a positive test.
Asked by Labour MP Ben Bradshaw “how surprised and disappointed” he was that government policy under its Global Travel Taskforce report could lead to a “more restrictive” summer in 2021 than last year, Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said he felt ministers were being “overcautious”.
Tanzer said the government’s approach did not recognise “the huge change that the vaccination programme has created”, adding the need to make travellers take PCR tests to return to the UK from countries considered "green" on the traffic light system was “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.
He argued such a move would “hobble the industry” and cause confusion from vaccinated travellers who would ask: “I’ve been vaccinated and nothing has changed?”
“I think you’d have a job to explain that to customers,” he said.
Iata’s UK & Ireland country manager, Simon McNamara, said it was “illogical” the UK government was not following a similar position to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with vaccinated travellers not having to quarantine on their return to America.
He said a “key missing element” from the taskforce report was how vaccinated customers are treated.