Ministers are accused of abandoning plans to slash the price of holidays abroad by allowing families to bring free rapid Covid-19 tests with them
- A scheme to allow Brits to take a lateral flow test was considered earlier this year
- But sources said that the money to pay for them was due to run out this month
- And the insiders added that there are no plans to replace the funding
Ministers have been accused of abandoning plans to slash the price of holidays abroad by allowing families to bring free rapid Covid-19 tests with them.
A scheme to allow holidaymakers to take a lateral flow test before returning to Britain was considered earlier this year.
But sources said the money to pay for it was due to run out this month – and no plans to replace the funding have been announced.
There were concerns about whether the tests would gain official approval due to the difficulty of proving when they are taken, as well as questions over their accuracy.
It means that ministers have missed an opportunity to save hard-pressed families money when they go abroad.
A scheme to allow holidaymakers to take a lateral flow test (pictured) before returning to Britain was considered earlier this year
Cheaper and faster lateral flow tests are currently being handed out for free by the Government for anyone who needs them.
And airlines have argued that the UK is holding passengers to far higher standards than other countries by refusing to allow the rapid tests, which ministers deem good enough for schools.
The failure to provide the free tests means families who go abroad are having to pay out for pre-return tests in order to be able to return to the UK.
Although the NHS lateral flow tests are CE-approved – meaning they meet certain safety and specification standards – travellers have to be supervised while taking them.
This is partly so people can receive official documentation stating the time the test was taken and the official result to show at the UK border on return.
But it would potentially mean arranging for NHS workers to supervise people taking the tests over an online video call, something for which there are precious little resources.
It means families have been forced to look to private providers. British Airways offers a pre-return test which is supervised via an online video call for £39.
This would add more than £150 to the bill for a holiday for a family of four, or nearly £200 for a family of five if their children were aged 11 or over.
Paying for a clinician in a foreign country to administer one could lead to an even bigger bill.
The cost of tests from private providers has fallen overall as more firms have entered the market.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, one of 17 MPs who signed a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling on him to scrap VAT on PCR tests, said the Government must deliver on its pledge to provide free pre-return testing devices which people could pack in their luggage to take with them
But of the more than 300 government-approved providers listed online the average overall price of a single PCR test is still more than £100.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, one of 17 MPs who signed a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling on him to scrap VAT on PCR tests, said the Government must deliver on its pledge to provide free pre-return testing devices which people could pack in their luggage to take with them.
He said: ‘They need to come through with the free tests. There’s a desperate need for them to deliver on that promise for the British public and the airlines and airport operators.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We want to keep travel as safe as possible and lateral flow tests are widely available at low costs in most green list countries. We are seeing how we can further reduce costs by continuing to work with travel industry and private testing providers.’
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