Holidays: Pressure for ‘free’ covid testing to make travel more ‘accessible’

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Countries around the world are now imposing new entry requirements which mean Britons must show a negative coronavirus test in order to visit. Furthermore, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be considering similar measures in the UK.

With travel corridors ongoing, forcing arrivals from “high risk” nations to quarantine for ten days on their entry to the UK, many Britons had hoped the “test to release” trial scheme could slash this time.

The scheme aimed to reduce quarantine for those who could produce a negative covid test on day five of their isolation.

However, private testing centres became “overwhelmed” when the scheme launched, and one expert says the financial burden of the scheme is not affordable for many Britons.

“To protect people here and abroad, testing is essential,” said Emma Coulthurst, an expert from holiday price comparison site TravelSupermarket.

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“With vaccinations and testing the way forward to fight this deadly virus, easily accessible cost-effective or free testing is key.

“Testing is too expensive at the moment. Tests before travel are required now before UK travellers go to most countries.

“Tests on return will also help to protect people.”

The Government urging anyone who needs a coronavirus test for travel not to use NHS services.

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The FCDO states: “You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country.

“You should arrange to take a private test and should confirm with the testing facility the type of tests available prior to booking an appointment.”

Currently, the cost of a private test can vary but with some service providers have been seen to reach amounts of up to £189.

However, Ms Coulthurst is urging the Government to consider slashing the cost of tests for travellers or even making them free altogether.

“When people can travel, free or extremely low-priced tests before or after travel need to be made accessible in the community, rather than having to rely on, in what feels like, in many cases, overpriced private testing,” she explained.

“With only a small number of testing services on the test to release programme, many of the services were overwhelmed when the quarantine test and release scheme launched at the beginning of December.

“Access to tests needs to be increased and to be free or no more than £30 each, a much more affordable price.”

Despite the ongoing concerns over testing for travel, Ms Coulthurst is positive about the future of travel, and believes the ongoing vaccination push is already helping to boost interest.

“It is positive to hear from the Government that it hopes that the most vulnerable including people over 70 will have received the vaccination by mid-February,” she continued.

“This gives more hope to people being able to safely travel in future.

“People want to escape and have new, sunny experiences when they can – we see that, with price comparison searches and bookings via TravelSupermarket for package holidays from April onwards and being most popular for June and July at the moment.

“People are looking forward to returning to the beaches in their favourite spots on the Med, with Turkey, Spain and Greece currently proving the favoured destinations for summer 2021.

“Fun escapes to Orlando, Las Vegas and New York are also high on people’s lists. As are high end, luxury escapes to the likes of Dubai and the Maldives, which, with no quarantine on entry or on return, have been proving to be the most popular places to head to, to date this winter.”

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