In a bid to help holidaymakers and drive down the market rate for Covid tests for travel, the health secretary has cut the cost of the travel tests that the NHS provides from £88 to £68 each.
Travellers returning from green and amber list countries to England will now pay £20 less per PCR test, bringing the cost of the NHS tests below the current average market rate of £75.
The price reduction also means those who are not fully vaccinated will have the cost of the day two and eight tests they need slashed from £170 to £136.
But Javid ruled out introducing a price cap on PCR tests being sold by private providers, after calls from his fellow Tory MPs to do so with immediate effect.
“I know how much people have looked forward to their summer holidays and I am pleased to announce that with immediate effect we’re slashing the price of day 2 and 8 PCR tests from NHS Test & Trace by a fifth,” the health secretary said in a tweet.
“Too many providers are acting like cowboys and that needs to stop.”
Javid also announced that the health department has begun a second ten day internal review of the pricing and services of the 434 private providers of PCR tests that are currently listed on the government website.
Test providers who fail to meet the government requirements will be removed from the list by the end of August.
Javid’s latest move comes after MPs urged him to expedite the ongoing Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into the price of PCR tests as holidaymakers face excessive costs during the August high season.
The UK’s competition watchdog told the health secretary it would report on its investigation into pricing “within the next month” – but this was far too slow, according to transport committee chairman Huw Merriman.
“We simply cannot wait a month to fix this inflated and broken market,” he said.
“International comparisons clearly demonstrate that consumers are paying over the odds for PCR testing in the UK. The government needs to immediately intervene.
“Better still, ministers could drop blanket PCR tests and move to cheaper, but equally reliable, lateral flow tests with only the small minority of positive cases requiring a more expensive PCR test.”
Joining the call for fast action on inflated PCR test prices during peak summer holiday season, Tory MP Henry Smith, chairman of the future of aviation all-party parliamentary group, said private Covid tests should be capped at £40.
Writing in the Telegraph, Smith said: “Every single traveller, including fully vaccinated arrivals from green countries with vanishingly low rates of Covid, are being treated as potential vectors of some dangerous new variant, and must pay through the nose for a battery of tests that on average still cost around £100 per traveller.”
“Government needs to build on recent progress with vaccination exemptions from quarantine by eliminating testing requirements from low-risk countries, and by capping the price of PCR tests to something like £40 – if and where they are still needed.”