Christmas COVID test shortage warning

PCR test
By Lisa James
15/12/2021
Home » Christmas COVID test shortage warning

Some COVID test providers have stopped selling kits over the Christmas period because of increased demand and reduced postal service, Which? warns.

It means travellers could be forced to pay even more for tests.

Two companies that have been rated among the most reliable by Which? Travel have told the association they can’t guarantee test delivery in the next few weeks, because of postage limitations.

All returning travellers now need to take a PCR test and most Day 2 travel tests are sent to the laboratory via Royal Mail priority mailboxes. However, Royal Mail does not process collections on eight separate days between Christmas and Tuesday 4 January, meaning labs are predicting delays in samples being returned, Which? says.


“In other words,” says Which? “If you post a private COVID test via Royal Mail on Christmas Eve it won’t even be received by the laboratory until 30 December at the earliest.

“If you post it on New Year’s Eve it won’t be received by the laboratory until 5 January – or 6 January in Scotland.”

The most reliable, cheap COVID test provider on Which? Travel’s list, Source Bioscience, had already said it was experiencing ‘high levels of demand’ and warned: “Your test of choice may not be available at the moment.”

It has since said it won’t be providing testing direct to the public at all over the Christmas period, as it can’t guarantee that people will get results in good time.

The second-best provider in Which? Travel’s list, Testing For All, has said: ‘Please note we will pause sales for our PCR Day 2 from 19 December until 4 January 2022 due to the expected performance of the postal network used to return samples to the lab.’

Which? says the supply problems mean customers will have to use higher-cost providers, book in advance, book collect/drop-off in person services or take a test at the airport.

“It is still possible to buy Source Bioscience tests from firms on the gov.uk list – but these can cost up to £89. This is because Source Bioscience, as a laboratory, is continuing to operate over the Christmas period selling tests to business clients, who sell them on at a premium to the public,” Which? adds.

Which? added there are ‘currently 20 firms quoting tests for ‘self swab at home’ for less than £30 – some as little as £15 – but none will deliver for that price. In some cases the price including delivery can be up to £90’.

Which? Travel Editor Rory Boland said: “High demand and postal service disruption over the Christmas period could affect festive plans for holidaymakers or anyone hoping to visit family and friends abroad. If travellers can’t get hold of timely test results, they could face extended self-isolation periods or be unable to board their flight – leaving them out of pocket. 

“This is just the latest example of issues with the private testing system and we urge the government to work with the travel industry to limit the impact on consumers whose travel plans may be affected. 

“Anyone with travel plans should book tests as soon as they can, and check collection times for Royal Mail priority postboxes before posting. Use a courier if you need to return a test urgently, or consider booking a test at a clinic or in an airport testing facility.

“If you are booking a trip in the coming months, you can protect yourself amid COVID-related disruption by choosing a package holiday provider with flexible booking policies.” 

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