BRITS’ winter travel plans have been left in tatters today after the Government’s ‘test to release’ scheme launched in utter chaos.
Ministers published a list of just 11 private labs able to provide tests for the entire nation’s travelers when they fly into the UK – but none of them have enough capacity to meet demand.
The new scheme started today which allows travellers coming to the UK to cut quarantine measures in half by taking a private Covid test after they’ve landed.
If passengers are negative after they take the test, self-isolation can be cut from ten to five days but costs between £80 and £300.
One firm even asked the government to take them off the list, saying it could not cope.
And many of the other providers showed tests sold out, unavailable or had order pages which failed to load.
Phone numbers provided by the Department for Transport for the labs also cut out.
SameDayDoctor said: “Unfortunately we have been so overwhelmed with requests for Test and Release that we cannot answer anymore emails nor take anymore bookings and we have asked to be removed from the Government list.”
Dr Laurence Gerlis, who runs the firm told The Independent: “This has been a nightmare.”
“I spent all weekend getting the paperwork together to apply to be a laboratory even though I am CQC-registered as a clinic.
“I am not sure the demand for this testing was estimated properly. Many people waited for a long time for the list to be published and it went crazy yesterday.
“I have 800 emails now to look at this morning. And 1,000 yesterday.”
“I am so sorry we have had to let down so many people.”
Another private clinic in Sevenoaks Kent, said: “We have very high demand for Coronavirus PCR swab testing currently.
“Sincere apologies if you are having difficulty getting through on the phone. Our team are working very hard at this challenging time.”
And the Axiom Lab website stated: “NOT YET AVAILABLE. AVAILABLE SOON. WE WILL UPDATE IN NEXT FEW HOURS.”
Another clinic, Halo, is also out of stock of tests.
One of the few places able to sell tests, the London General Practice, was charging £295 for swabs – a massive markup from other providers, which sold them for between £80 to £130.
People were furious at the bungled scheme, with one person storming: “I’ve seen so many posts from people flying home to the UK to see their families because he announced ‘test & release’ and now they can’t get a test unless they pay circa £300 at a ‘London clinic’.”
“I guess it’s only ‘high value’ travellers that will get to see their families.”
Another furious passenger was set to travel from Switzerland to the UK, but was unable to book a test.
She stormed that all of the providers were “unable” to sell swabs.
Paul Charles, chief exec of the travel consultancy PC Agency, told The Telegraph: “It has not got off to a great start.
“Of the 11 providers listed on the Test To Release website, most cannot help you to leave quarantine early or even meet the demand for testing kits or appointments. Some provider websites are not even working.”
“I don’t understand why the Government never learns from the mistakes it makes. It should be consulting with the travel and tourism sector on a daily basis to ensure it creates the right conditions for recovery.”