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Published on Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Shambolic test-to-release scheme leaves travellers fuming


Most of the 11 firms approved by the government to provide Covid-19 tests to travellers who want to end their 14-day quarantine early are unable to offer the service, it was revealed today.

Within hours of the launch of the test-to-release scheme, several firms on the government's list of approved test providers had stopped offering any new appointments.

Others say they've run out of testing kits or that they're not yet ready to provide the service.

One, Screen4, says it can still offer postal Covid-19 tests but its turnaround is up to three days, so the earliest travellers could end their quarantine would be on day 8.

Consumers took to social media to blast the new scheme, calling it a shambles.Several travellers pointed out they had booked trips to the UK in the expectation that they would be able to book a test in time to spend Christmas with their families but they'd been unable to find a test provider.

Under the test-to-release scheme, people arriving in the UK from countries not on the government's travel corridor list can take a test five days after their arrival and if the result is negative they can end their 14-day quarantine early.

But travellers aren't allowed to get a free NHS test under the scheme, and the government only published its list of 11 approved private testing firms late yesterday. By this morning it was apparent few of those on the list were able to provide testing kits or appointments.

One traveller wrote on Twitter: "Seems those of us planning to use the scheme to get out of quarantine and home for Christmas have been given false hope."

One of the test providers has allegedly already asked to be removed from the government's list after being overwhelmed by demand.

The difficulty finding a test provider is likely to further dampen demand for travel. Holidaymakers are already struggling to get pre-departure Covid-19 tests and some are missing flights as a result of test results coming back to late, causing further problems for agents who need to rapidly re-organise holidays at the last minute.

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