One in four PCR tests of returning travellers missing key travel data
What’s the point of a PCR test for returning travellers? A QUARTER quarter of Covid tests carried out on travellers arriving from overseas fail to record where they have come from
- Of 742,650 tests booked by travellers, point of departure not known for 558,640
- Figures show number of ‘unknowns’ has more than doubled over recent months
- Comes as the average cost of a single Covid traveller test remained above £90
Around a quarter of the Covid tests carried out on travellers arriving from overseas fail to record where they have come from, figures revealed yesterday.
Critics of the costly tests last night questioned how officials could make decisions about which destinations should be listed as green, amber and red when such a large chunk of crucial information was missing.
They also claimed the figures meant many travellers were paying for the costly post-holiday PCR checks unnecessarily.
The figures came as it was revealed the average cost of a single Covid traveller test remained above £90 – despite a vow two weeks ago by Health Secretary Sajid Javid to drive down prices.
A Daily Mail analysis of NHS Test and Trace figures shows that, of more than 742,650 tests booked by travellers, the country they arrived from is known for around 558,640.
The average cost of a single Covid traveller test remained above £90 – despite a vow two weeks ago by Health Secretary Sajid Javid to drive down prices (file photo)
For the remaining 184,000 swabs, the words ‘unknown’ or ‘multiple-unknown’ appear where the place they arrived from is supposed to be listed.
The data also shows the number of ‘unknowns’ has more than doubled in recent months as travel restrictions have eased.
Ministers insist post-arrival tests must be taken to help build a picture about where infections are coming into the country from and to detect variants of concern.
But Tory MP Henry Smith, chairman of the Future of Aviation Group of MPs, called for an overhaul of the system, including allowing arrivals to take rapid tests rather than ‘gold standard’ PCR swabs. Those who test positive could then take a PCR swab, but the price of these should also be capped, he said.
He added: ‘These figures show that testing has become little more than an expensive disincentive for international travel and has only succeeded in holding back the recovery of our aviation sector as well as leaving many travellers feeling that they have shelled out for costly tests for little or no reason.’
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who sits on the Commons transport committee, said: ‘No other country in the developed world has travel restrictions as opaque, complex and expensive as ours.’
Sarah Olney MP, Liberal Democrat transport spokesman said: ‘How can the Government claim to make informed decisions about what countries are high risk when they don’t know where a quarter of travellers taking Covid tests have flown in from?’
A Daily Mail analysis of NHS Test and Trace figures shows that, of more than 742,650 tests booked by travellers, the country they arrived from is known for around 558,640 (Pictured: Home testing kit)
It was unclear why the country travellers are arriving from is not recorded. The Health Department was contacted for comment.
One theory, according to experts, is that private testing firms, which some travellers book, may not always be passing on all the information to health officials.
The figures relate to July 22 to August 11, the latest for which data is available. Analysis also shows just 0.7 per cent of travellers arriving from green countries are testing positive. For amber countries the rate is 1.3 per cent.
The Health Secretary vowed two weeks ago to ‘ensure high quality tests are available at a reasonable price.’ He said the NHS would drop its prices from £88 to £68 for a single-test package and £170 to £136 for a two-swab kit.
The hope had been that private firms would follow suit. But yesterday the average price for a single travel test among private providers listed on the Government website was £93, up on £90 when Mr Javid spoke out.
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