Matt Quinton

The great holiday Covid test rip-off


I holidayed in Malta last month with my partner, having chosen it because it was on the ‘green list’. Foolishly, I assumed this would mean we could waltz back to the UK without any hassle. I was wrong. We needed a test before departing Malta.

Within a few minutes of looking on the Malta airport website, I found a provider, headed to their test centre, and €30 later, was given the all clear. But that wasn’t all. To complete my pre-flight passenger form, I needed a ‘Day 2’ test for when I was home. For this, the UK government has a website pointing holidaymakers towards a slew of private firms — 315 catering for the Greater London area alone. Costs range from £20 to £400 and you can filter the site to view the cheapest firms first.

Choosing a £20 option, I clicked through to the company’s website. But all the tests at that price were sold out. The same site was also selling tests for £55 — the difference between them was not specified.

Returning to the government’s list, I chose another firm offering £20 tests. But, again, all the cheap ones were gone. Instead, this provider was selling tests for £97 — before added postage charges.

Often the low prices stated on the government’s page are not for postal tests, but ‘self swab on site’, which involves travelling to a test centre where you administer your own test. Although I’d selected ‘Greater London’, the cheap rates advertised are only available if you go to a specific test centre in random parts of the country (I was offered cheap tests in Bradford, Bury St Edmunds and Barnsley, for instance). All the in-person tests in major cities, such as London and Liverpool, cost a small fortune.

‘It’s daylight swabbery.’

The test websites are also set up to blind consumers with an array of options.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in