'Rip-off' Covid testing firms that price Brits out of summer hols will be booted off Government list, Grant Shapps vows

RIP-OFF Covid testing firms that price Brits out of summer holidays have been warned they face being booted off the Government's official list of providers.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has vowed to "drive down" the cost of gold-standard PCR swabs within weeks and told companies that don't "play ball" they'll be blacklisted.

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He made the remarks as the Government announced a new "traffic light" travel system system that may allow Brits to take foreign holidays again this summer to destinations like Greece, Spain, and Italy.

Under the blueprint Brits returning home from any country will have to take at least one PCR swab, and Mr Shapps said he doesn't want to see sun seekers "being ripped off'.

The lab-processed tests, which are highly accurate and can be used to sequence dangerous variants, cost around £120 each in Britain – more than double the price in many continental countries.

In popular holiday hotspots like Italy and Greece the very same swabs cost just £50 to take, while in Portugal they're £63 a pop.

Mr Shapps said he couldn't understand why private testing is so much more expensive in the UK and vowed to get prices down.

He said: "It's a very good question and one that I intend to get answered. We want to see these tests be as cheap and convenient as possible.

"I'm going to work with the travel industry and the private testing providers to drive down that cost.

"I won't spare those those companies that seem to be profiteering, including potentially removing them from the recommended list."

Mr Shapps said the sky-high prices are especially unfathomable because the UK carries out up to two million tests per day.

He added: "I don't see any reason, particularly given that we have a bigger testing market now in the UK than virtually any other country.

"As a country we are testing nearly at the peak two million people per day and everybody from today is entitled to Lateral Flow Tests twice a week.

"So I think that cost should be cheaper for those private tests.

"I'll be driving that down in the next couple of weeks where we can and potentially even removing providers if they're not playing ball, because I don't want to see people being ripped off."

It comes as all Brits become entitled to two self-administered Lateral Flow Tests a week for free from today.

Under the mass testing blitz, designed to help reopen the economy, people can pick up the swabs from pharmacies or order them online.

Earlier the transport secretary declared Brits can now go ahead and book their summer holidays abroad this year.

He said ministers are ditching the official advice not to plan foreign trips for the first time – but insisted they'll be cautious about new variants.

Mr Shapps urged would-be travellers to wait another couple of weeks until the Government has published which destinations will be on its green list.

International travel won't be allowed again until at least May 17.

The US, Gibraltar, Malta and much of the Caribbean are tipped for green status – and Greece could also make the cut.

Spain and Italy may also be able to join from June if their jabs programmes progress well.

Under the plan there will be quarantine-free travel to “green listed” countries that have jabbed a large portion of the population.

GREEN: Anyone returning from these countries must take a pre-flight Covid test at their own cost, then take a further test within days of landing to check for new strains

AMBER: Like green but those entering the UK must isolate at home for ten days after arrival. They can get out after five days with a negative test paid for privately

RED: Arrivals must isolate on their return in an authorised hotel at their own cost — as they do currently

But people returning from those destinations would still have to take a test both before getting on the plane and then again on their second day back.

Those returning from amber countries would have to quarantine for two weeks and take two PCR tests at a cost of over £200.

And people arriving from red list states would be put into hotel quarantine, which costs £1,750 per person.

On top of that, destinations also have their own testing requirements which add further to the price of a holiday.

Consumer group Which? said a return trip to Greece currently requires five tests, which would cost an estimated £370 per person.

It added holidays to France could be an extra £420 per person, Spain £330 and Italy £310.

One idea to help drive down costs is for the Government to provide holidaymakers with cheaper lateral flow tests before they travel.

They would then use them on the last day of their holiday before getting on the plane, and a negative result would be valid for entry into Britain.

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