The UK government has announced that it has cut the cost of the NHS Test and Trace PCR test for international arrivals and has launched a review to private testing providers
The government has announced that the cost of NHS Test and Trace tests for international arrivals will be reduced from £88 to £68 for one test for green or fully vaccinated and amber arrivals, and from £170 to £136 for two tests for amber arrivals who are not fully vaccinated.
The health secretary has also announced that there will be a rapid internal review of the private testing providers that are listed on gov.uk. The review began at the weekend and will last 10 days and any providers failing to meet necessary standards will be removed.
Sajid Javid stated that any providers offering misleading claims and excessive pricing will be clamped down on and swiftly be removed from the official list.
The health secretary said that ‘too many providers are acting like cowboys and that needs to stop’ and that ‘the public should be allowed to enjoy their summer holidays without having to face excessive costs or anxiety.’
The call for a review came from an investigation of the list from the Liberal Democrats which found that more than 100 outlets charged £200 for a PCR test and only 11% of the providers offered tests for under £50, with the cheapest offering prices ranging from £20.
It also found that 24% of the providers were charging more than £200 with a Mayfair GP clinic listed as £575, although on its own website it stated that prices started at £399.
After publishing its results, the Liberal Democrats called on the government to cap the cost of PCR tests for international travel, cut the red tape that is keeping prices high, and scrap the VAT on tests.
Guidance from HMRC, states Covid-19 tests are only exempt from VAT, which amounts to 20% on the sale price, if administered by a registered health professional or if the company selling them has sales of less than £85,000 a year.
Munira Wilson, health spokeswoman, Liberal Democrats said: ‘International travel cannot become a luxury that only the wealthy can afford. The price of PCR tests for international travel are a rip-off and far higher than most other countries. Many have not seen their loved ones abroad since the beginning of the pandemic and the cost of testing is a real barrier to travel.
‘When the cost of providing a test is estimated to be £20, why are many companies charging well over £100 and some over £500? Testing is vital in our fight against the pandemic, but if it is safe to travel it should be affordable to travel.’
Other Conservative MP’s have also joined the call for a VAT cut on PCR tests with a recent study by the University of Hull showing that axing the VAT on Covid-19 travel tests could boost the UK economy by £5bn.
The study also found that the overall tax take from holiday spending could rise from £1.9bn to £2bn.
PCR tests are free or zero-rated for VAT in seven of the 10 most popular tourist destinations for UK holidaymakers with Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus ,and Ireland having all scrapped VAT on tests.
Tests are also taxed at just 5% in Malta and Italy and even Turkey, which taxes them at 18% and is still lower than the UK.