‘Will anger families’: Welsh Government criticised over PCR test ‘u-turn’ for foreign travellers
The Welsh Government has been criticised after announcing that travellers from Wales will soon be able to use PCR tests from private companies as well as the NHS.
The Conservatives said that the move would “anger families” who had paid for more expensive NHS tests over the summer season only to now find that the Welsh Government had announced an “u-turn” on previous advice.
The NHS PCR tests currently cost £68 each while England has allowed travellers to use tests from private companies that cost as little as £50.
The Welsh Government say they are making the change because the “significant concerns” they had over private companies providing PCR tests are now being ironed out.
But Welsh Conservative shadow health minister, Russell George MS, claimed that the change was being made because the Welsh Government’s testing scheme was “grinding to a halt”.
“This belated U-turn will come as little consolation to the thousands of hardworking Welsh families who’ve been clobbered by Labour’s costly testing scheme,” he said.
“Yesterday, we learned that Labour’s testing scheme for holidays was grinding to a halt, so there appears to have been little option but to U-turn and give people more freedom to choose their testing provider.
“Far from something to celebrate, the timing of such an announcement after the conclusion of the summer holidays will anger many families who’ve been forced to fork out hundreds of pounds due to the stubbornness of Labour ministers.”
The Welsh Government said that it was making the change after regulations on private companies offering PCR tests were tightened.
They said that concerns had been raised about issues with some of the private test providers, including inaccurate and misleading advertised prices, slow delivery and processing of tests and results not flowing into Welsh systems.
New legislative standards for private test providers will come into force from 21 September. They will include ensuring that test results and genomic sequencing – which is used to identify any new variants – are processed and reported quickly and within a comparable time period to NHS tests.
“Given the new regulations and the impact on standards for private tests, we will make changes to the rules to enable people travelling to Wales to book tests with private sector providers, if they wish. NHS tests will also continue to be available to book,” Health Minister Eluned Morgan said.
“These changes will come into effect from 21 September to coincide with the new standards coming into force in England.
“I welcome the progress that has been made in addressing the significant concerns we have raised with UK Government, especially with the introduction of new regulatory standards on 21 September. I also expect further improvements following the publication of the CMA report and acceptance of the recommendations to further improve outcomes.
“It’s important to remember that coronavirus is still with us, and our advice continues to be that people should avoid all non-essential international travel.”