Rules on arrivals into the UK for some travellers change on Sunday
The relaxation of coronavirus rules for returning holidaymakers risks being marred by difficulties obtaining affordable lateral flow tests.
From Sunday, fully vaccinated people arriving in England from a non-red list country can use a lateral flow test rather than the PCR version.
When Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced the new policy last week, he said it would make international travel “easier and cheaper”.
But problems were identified shortly after the Government website listing firms providing lateral flow tests for travellers went live on Friday.
Analysis by the PA news agency found many of the companies with the lowest advertised prices either do not allow customers to book the tests, or the actual prices are much higher.
C-19 Direct is listed as offering the tests for £14.94, but the cheapest available option on its website is £59.95.
Frustrated travellers on Twitter described the listings as “fake advertising” and “clickbait”.
Meanwhile, 48 providers are selling the tests for at least £100, with the most expensive being offered by ROC Health Services for £217.
Lateral flow tests for non-travellers are available free of charge on the NHS, and in most other major European tourist destinations they cost no more than £25.
Problems obtaining affordable tests are a headache for thousands of holidaymakers preparing to embark on half-term trips.
Issues with PCR testing – including booking tests, receiving kits and getting results – were a major issue over the summer.
The Competition and Markets Authority was asked to review the PCR test process by Mr Javid, who said travellers should not suffer from “unnecessary costs or low quality provision”.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “Why does the Government fail to learn?
“Yet again it is quoting prices for day-two tests which are not reflected by the actual test providers on their own websites.
“Its poor oversight and lack of regulation of this multibillion-pound industry continues to beggar belief.
“Fully jabbed consumers shouldn’t have to pay more than £25 at most for a day-two antigen test which they can take at home.
“It’s vital to shop around and choose a low-cost but bona fide provider.”
Meanwhile, the Welsh Government has announced it will mirror England’s lateral flow test policy, but the change will be implemented a week later.
It said in a statement that it remains “concerned” about the speed at which the UK Government is opening up overseas travel for England.
It went on: “We have consistently urged the UK Government to take a precautionary approach towards reopening international travel.
“However, it is difficult for us to adopt a different testing regime to that required by the UK Government, as the majority of Welsh travellers enter the UK through ports and airports in England.”