UK holidaymakers are paying out millions of pounds for PCR tests that aren’t checked for new Covid variants, research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.
Holidaymakers paid an estimated £26.7m for PCR tests in July while only 293 positive tests were checked for variants, equivalent to around £90,000 for each sequenced result.
Fewer than one in twenty positive tests are being checked for new mutations from top holiday destinations including France (4 per cent), Greece (3.5 per cent) and Portugal (4.2 per cent), according to research based on the latest NHS Test and Trace data.
Yet around £5.3m was spent by arrivals from Spain, followed by the United States (£1.9m), France (£1.9m), Greece (£1.7m), Poland (£1.3m) and Italy (£1.2m).
It comes despite the government emphasising that PCR tests for international travel are needed to help monitor new Covid mutations, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps saying last week that they are helpful to “keep a very close eye on variants”
Commenting on the findings, Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care spokesperson, Munira Wilson MP said:
“Testing at borders is crucial to ensure that potentially dangerous new variants do not arrive in the UK. Travellers are paying through the nose for a system that isn’t doing its job.”
“The Government is not only dragging its feet over the cost of PCR tests but isn’t even using most of them to track new variants. They must cap the cost of PCR tests for travel and ensure that as many as possible are sequenced for new variants.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said:
“We are a world leader in genomics with over 600,000 positive COVID-19 samples having been genomically sequenced during this pandemic.”
“NHS Test and Trace sequences all viable samples from anyone returning from a red list country who tests positive for COVID-19 so we can continue to track any new variants.”