Travel PCR Tests ‘A Rip-Off’: Former Head of UK Competition Watchdog

By Simon Veazey
Simon Veazey
Simon Veazey
Freelance Reporter
Simon Veazey is a UK-based journalist who has reported for The Epoch Times since 2006 on various beats, from in-depth coverage of British and European politics to web-based writing on breaking news.
August 17, 2021 Updated: August 17, 2021

COVID tests for travel are “a predictable COVID rip-off,” according to Lord Tyrie, the former head of the UK Competition and Markets Authority.

Currently, all travellers must take at least one PCR test after arriving in England, which they must pay for themselves from an approved provider, in addition to a test prior to departure from overseas.

Those tests typically cost around £75 ($103) in the UK but can be far more pricey.

Lord Tyrie told the BBC that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had been “too slow to react” to complaints from passengers and the travel industry, which flooded in as CCP virus restrictions were loosened just before the holiday season.

“The CMA acted much more quickly to quell price-gouging on hand sanitiser and other COVID-related products 18 months ago,” he said.

The health secretary last week asked the CMA to investigate “excessive” pricing and “exploitative practices” among PCR test firms.

Under pressure from the travel industry, the CMA said last week it was now reviewing the situation.

Lord Tyrie said that the CMA “could and should have been better prepared.”

“It should either be acting already directly using existing powers. Or if deemed inadequate for the job, it should be advising the government on how to obtain a quick remedy, whether by legislation or by other means,” he said.

The CMA said that Tyrie’s comments were “inaccurate.”

A spokesperson for the CMA told the Epoch Times via email: “The CMA gave advice to [health] officials about the PCR testing market in April and we gave further advice to the Secretary of State last week.

“We continue to work closely with [the health department] in reviewing the market and, as we have made clear, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action ourselves if there are breaches of consumer law.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the CMA has secured hundreds of millions of pounds in refunds for people who have been treated unfairly, in sectors including holiday accommodation and package travel.”

To manage the risk of cases of the CCP virus arriving in England from abroad, the government puts countries into one of three lists, in accordance with levels of perceived risk.

One PCR test is required within two days of arrival from “Green List” countries, regardless of vaccination status. Two PCR tests, taken on days two and eight after arrival, are required for all travellers from “Red List” countries, and for all unvaccinated travellers from “Amber List” countries.

Many key figures and organisations in the travel industry say that the testing regime is holding back the recovery of the sector.

Karen Smart, Managing Director of Manchester Airport, said on Aug. 12: “We won’t see a proper sustained recovery until the UK overhauls its costly and restrictive travel regime, which is out of step with the rest of Europe.

“UK passengers continue to be subjected to onerous and expensive PCR testing on the basis they will be sequenced to protect the UK from variants of concern, but it is clear this is not happening.”

The NHS cut the cost of its PCR tests by a fifth at the weekend, down from £88 to £68 ($121 to $93) for a single test. The move is generally understood to be an attempt to pull down the market price.

Simon Veazey
Simon Veazey
Freelance Reporter
Simon Veazey is a UK-based journalist who has reported for The Epoch Times since 2006 on various beats, from in-depth coverage of British and European politics to web-based writing on breaking news.