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Chaos for five-day travel quarantine as testing firms quit

Chaos for five-day travel quarantine as testing firms quit: Two companies pull out of Covid-19 screening programme after being swamped with demand

  • Ministers finally unveiled a list of 11 approved private medical firms to get a test
  • The ‘test to release’ plan supposed to help revive virus-ravaged travel industry 
  • The Prime Minister’s spokesman said 11 testing providers had been approved

The new five-day travel quarantine scheme was mired in chaos yesterday as two testing firms pulled out after being swamped with demand.

Following weeks of delay, ministers finally unveiled a list of 11 approved private medical firms where travellers flying into the UK can get a test to cut quarantine time from ten to five days. 

The Department for Transport’s ‘test to release’ plan was supposed to help revive the virus-ravaged travel industry ahead of the Christmas period.

Ministers finally unveiled a list of 11 approved private medical firms where travellers flying into the UK can get a test to cut quarantine time from ten to five days. Pictured: Passengers arrive at London’s Heathrow Airport

But industry leaders were dismayed after the approved providers were announced just five hours before launch at midnight yesterday. 

They claimed the list was shortened at the last minute after ministers decided to approve tests only from providers with direct access to a laboratory. However, third party providers process tests in the same laboratories as those approved by the Government.

SameDayDoctor and PrivateGPClinic pulled out of the scheme, citing extraordinary levels of demand from travellers.

Dr Laurence Gerlis, of SameDayDoctor, which offers test results in 15 minutes, branded the scheme a ‘nightmare’. He told The Independent: ‘I am not sure the demand for this testing was estimated properly.’ Richard Burge, of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: ‘It defies belief that the Government’s long-awaited aviation test to release scheme has, within hours, proved to be unworkable.’

Ministers finally unveiled a list of 11 approved private medical firms where travellers flying into the UK can get a test to cut quarantine time from ten to five days (file image)

Ministers finally unveiled a list of 11 approved private medical firms where travellers flying into the UK can get a test to cut quarantine time from ten to five days (file image) 

Paul Charles, of The PC Agency travel consultancy said: ‘It has been weeks in planning yet has taken just minutes to fall apart.’ The Prime Minister’s spokesman said 11 testing providers had been approved and officials were now ‘working at pace to secure more’.

Axiom Laboratory told potential customers that ‘Test to Release in not yet available’, Halo Verify said its tests were out of stock, while Medicspot was not accepting new orders due to a laboratory backlog.

Two of the 11 firms – DNA Workplace and Prenetics – only allow travellers to either request a quote for a test or to register their interest.

Another, Chronomics, said it was not yet ready to begin traveller testing. Websites for two other firms, Screen4 and The London General Practice, were not working for some.

Asked whether Boris Johnson (pictured) was happy with the way the scheme had been launched, the spokesman said: ¿We have made this option available to international travellers and we are working to approve more test providers'

Asked whether Boris Johnson (pictured) was happy with the way the scheme had been launched, the spokesman said: ‘We have made this option available to international travellers and we are working to approve more test providers’

Julia Lo Bue-Said, boss of Advantage Travel Partnership of travel agents, said: ‘We are imploring the UK government to provide a workable solution for the test and release scheme, to consult with industry and to ensure solutions are workable for those who are selling travel so that they are in a position whereby they can help their travellers navigate through these exceptionally anxious and challenging times.’

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘We have already secured 11 testing providers that meet our minimum standards and are working at pace to secure more.’

Asked whether Boris Johnson was happy with the way the scheme had been launched, the spokesman said: ‘We have made this option available to international travellers and we are working to approve more test providers.’

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