UK’s travel testing system ‘at risk of collapse’ when rules ease next month

UK’s travel testing system ‘at risk of collapse’ when rules ease next month
UK’s travel testing system ‘at risk of collapse’ when rules ease next month
Travellers arriving back in the UK are facing delays receiving their Covid tests and results (Picture: Getty)

The UK’s travel testing system is at risk of collapse when restrictions are eased because private labs are already struggling to keep up with demand, it has been claimed.

Research by Which has found Covid tests for people in quarantine are routinely arriving late, despite costing hundreds of pounds.

The delays mean some are having to pay for additional tests or face spending longer in quarantine.

People could also be fined up to £2,000 if they don’t comply with Government rules which state people must be tested on days two and eight of their self isolation.

Last week Metro.co.uk revealed travellers buying tests from the company AlphaBioLabs were receiving their tests up to four days late.

Which says the problems extend far beyond one provider and, with mass travel set to resume next month, the watchdog is concerned that the travel test system is struggling to cope.

Social media and review sites have been flooded with complaints about test result delays, with a Facebook group for people suffering problems with the system amassing around 1,500 members.

Erkal Taskin, who returned from Turkey after visiting his ill father in early April, said that he didn’t receive his day two test kit from Anglia, a government-listed test provider, until he had been in the UK for a week.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 15, 2021 A passenger wearing a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, walks through the arrivals hall after landing at London Heathrow Airport in west London. - Britain on April 5, 2021, will unveil plans to restart international travel as it cautiously exits a coronavirus lockdown, but India was forced to further tighten curbs to fight a huge spike in infections. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Travellers have to take tests on days two and eight of their quarantine period (Picture: Getty)

Only after he contacted Anglia through Twitter and Which responded to his tweets did it promise him a refund. It finally gave him his day two result 15 days after he had arrived in the country, and he still has not received his day eight result.

He said: ‘I wasn’t sure when I could leave my house and there was no one to ask. I ended up waiting for so long before I could go back to work, which was a huge problem.’

Currently, anyone arriving in the UK must quarantine for a mandatory 10 days and take a PCR test on day two and day eight of their quarantine.

These tests typically cost between £160 and £200, but can cost over £500. Travellers must receive negative results for both tests to leave quarantine after day 10.

MALLORCA, SPAIN - JULY 30: Passengers walk to the arrivals in Palma de Mallorca airport on July 30, 2020 in Mallorca, Spain. The United Kingdom, whose citizens comprise the largest share of foreign tourists in Spain, added Mallorca and other Spanish islands to its advice against non-essential travel to the country, citing a rise in coronavirus cases. The change follows the UK's decision to reimpose a 14-day isolation period for travelers returning from Spain. (Photo by Clara Margais/Getty Images)
Travel rules are set to be eased next month (Picture: Getty)

Another person complained on Trustpilot about a different provider, claiming that after they didn’t receive results for their day two test, they paid for a ‘Day Five Test to Release Kit’ – which would have allowed them to end their quarantine early on receipt of a negative result.

But, they said they were ‘now on day nine, [we] still have no results, so [it was a] waste of £110 plus £175.’

Some providers have blamed delays with Royal Mail deliveries, but Royal Mail told Which there have been no reported delays in its network related to use of the company’s priority post boxes for managing travellers’ test results.

The Government’s traffic light system – which could be introduced as early as May 17 – requires people to take either two tests, if returning from a ‘green’ country, or three tests for those coming from amber or red destinations.

FILE PHOTO: People queue to enter terminal 2, as tighter rules for international travellers start, at Heathrow Airport, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, London, Britain, January 18, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo
There are fears the testing system won’t be able to cope when restrictions are eased (Picture: Reuters)

Rory Boland, Which Travel Editor, said: ‘The UK’s travel testing system can’t cope with demand, even when relatively small numbers of people are travelling.

‘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.’

The Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘We are carefully monitoring issues raised by the public, 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.’

Anglia did not respond to requests for comment.

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Author: Tom Williams