Chaos as Day 2 lateral flow launch sees sites crash and some firms not even selling rapid tests
Fully vaccinated travellers can now book affordable lateral flow tests rather than expensive PCR tests, but the launch has seen some sites crashing and other firms are not even selling the rapid tests.
It is not possible to buy lateral flow tests from half of the test providers on the Government list, including the cheapest options under £20, i analysis has found.
The cheapest available option is for home delivery, with Randox Health Airport Testing the cheapest at £24, or £20 through click and collect from locations across the country.
Affinity Health and Coronafocus both charge £25 for tests and all the other working options are £28.75 from Collinson up to £39 from Pharmesthetics Ltd.
Lateral flow tests are bookable on the Government website from today, and as of Sunday 24 October, they will replace expensive PCR tests as a requirement for fully vaccinated travellers.
Provider C-19 Direct offers self-swab at home lateral flow tests for as little as £14.94 but this option is not available upon clicking through to its website. Similarly, the PeploBio company says it charges just £18 for lateral flow tests but ‘PCR test’ appears to be the only option available online.
The website for the third cheapest firm, Testing For All – which charges £19 per test – crashed hours after the list was published on Friday morning. The company said it had “temporarily paused sales” due to “very high demand” for the affordable lateral flow Day 2 test.
Similarly, Project Screen also halted sales of £22 lateral flow tests for a “short period of time”, as did Covid Smart Limited.
The fourth cheapest option on the Government list, Cignpost Diagnostics, also stopped working as clicking on the lateral flow test option took consumers straight back to the home page.
The company offers home delivery tests for £25 but the £19.99 option advertised on the Government list is for click and collect only and not available to book until 3 November.
The Government site lists Boots UK as an option for £20 lateral flow tests, but the website only offers in-store Rapid Antigen Testing Service for £30 which seems to only be suitable for pre-travel to some countries.
Rory Boland, travel editor at Which?, branded the launch “shambolic” in a tweet. He said: “The government has released it’s list of day two lateral flow providers. The problem? The first two providers on the list don’t sell day 2 lateral flow tests. Shambolic”
Some customers also reported that they have been unable to get onto the Government website to see the list as it is “currently offline due to high demand”.
Lateral flow tests are still available from other companies on the Government list at much cheaper prices than PCR tests.
Randox Health Airport Testing charged £20 per test and the site appears to be up and running. The company offers self-swab at home tests for £24 home delivery or click and collect from various locations for £20.
Tests are also available from Affinity Health for £25.
What are the new travel rules? The only requirement for fully vaccinated adults, and all children, travelling to the UK will be to fill out a passenger locator form before arriving and book a private lateral flow test to check if they are at risk of spreading Covid-19. Previously it was necessary to take a more accurate, and more expensive, PCR test after landing in Britain. When do the new rules take effect? Sunday 24 October is the first day when lateral flow tests will replace PCRs in England. The precise date when Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will follow suit has not yet been confirmed. Can I just get a free test from the NHS? No. The NHS Test and Trace system is not intended to be used to facilitate international travel. It is compulsory for travellers to demonstrate they have booked a test from a private provider, including well-known high street chains as well as a large number of small start-ups, as a condition of entering Britain. Children aged five to 17 must comply with the testing requirements. They do not have to be vaccinated to be subject to the lighter regime, unlike adults. What are the rules for the unvaccinated? Any adult who is not fully vaccinated needs to take a private PCR test before leaving for the UK, another within two days of arriving and a third on their eighth day in the country. They must self-isolate for 10 days, unless they take a fourth PCR test on day five which comes back negative.
Passengers who are not yet fully vaccinated still have to get more expensive PCR tests for travel and companies on the Government’s approved list of providers are still charging above average prices for PCR swabs.
Analysis by i carried out yesterday found that at least 100 of the 454 PCR providers on the Government-approved list are charging well above the average of £75.
A Gatwick Airport spokesperson said they are “pleased” costly PCR tests are no longer required for double-vaccinated passengers returning to England, but the Government needs to do more to support the travel industry as it recovers.
“The news will be a huge boost to the travel industry and provide passengers with more confidence and certainty without the cost of a more expensive PCR test.
“However, we believe the Government needs to do more and remove all testing requirements for fully vaccinated passengers, ensure ‘common-sense’ recognition of foreign-issued vaccinations and remove the cumbersome Passenger Locator Form.”