The notion that we’re all in this together has been a nonsense since the start of the pandemic.
While conscientious, law-abiding members of the general public have quietly gone about their business, an unscrupulous bunch of opportunists has wasted no time in profiteering from the ever-changing rules and regulations.
And none more so than when it comes to testing.
As the Mail has revealed, government-approved firms offering
The notion that we’re all in this together has been a nonsense since the start of the pandemic, writes MARK PALMER
Yes, of course, we all know how a crisis invariably attracts sharks with a killer financial instinct.
But what makes this especially insidious is that these pop-up companies with the kind of fancy names designed to reassure customers – such as Expert Medicals, Harley Street Dr, Medicspot – effectively have the backing of the Government.
Harley Street Dr currently is charging at least £175 for PCR test – and you will need two of them if planning a sunny break in Madeira, for example.
If you’re married with two children over the age of 12, that means forking out a total of £1,400 on testing – which might be more than the cost of your whole holiday.
Throw in the lateral flow test kits to take with you, which must be completed up to 72 hours before returning to the UK, and you’re looking at approximately another £200.
And yet, back in May, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps made all sorts of reassuring noises about ‘clamping down’ on companies charging such extortionate fees.
He gave the impression, in his chirpy manner that he was on the side of those who simply long to travel (and not just to sit on a beach, but perhaps spend time with elderly relatives or ‘loved ones’, as members of the Cabinet call them, as a means of ingratiating themselves with the public).
In fact, he appears to have done nothing of the kind.
As the Mail has revealed, government-approved firms offering coronavirus tests for those leaving the country, or returning from trips overseas, have been given a licence to charge outlandish prices for a service that often promises a lot, but delivers little
Worse, he and his department have encouraged this testing racket, leaving it to individual tour operators and airlines to help customers – with the likes of Tui offering testing packages from as little as £20 per person.
‘The obvious solution is to do away with these tests all together for those who are fully vaccinated and going to countries with fewer infections than in the UK,’ says Toby Kelly, chief executive of travel company Trailfinders. ‘
Why should you have to take an expensive PCR test when returning from those countries?
If there is no test required after a train journey from Manchester to Bristol, then what is the logic behind a test following a flight home from Antigua?’
At the very least, there should be no VAT charged on PCR tests. These tests are mandatory; there is no free choice in the matter – just as there isn’t with passports or driving licences.
We are required by law to have a passport when travelling and a licence to drive a car and, as a result, we are not charged VAT. Why not the same for tests?
And if the Government persists with its chaotic policy, why can’t NHS testing sites be used for free and their results recognised, rather than forcing people to pay the current absurd sums?
Many of these NHS sites are under-used, and have spare capacity.
The answer is that it would bring nothing into the Revenue’s coffers.
So we are stuck with a system that’s not fit for purpose, from a government which, in the case of travel, sails on from one sea of confusion to another.
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