Hundreds of passengers arriving in the UK are having to extend their quarantine or pay for additional Covid tests as private labs are failing to deliver results on time, new research has found.

Currently, anyone arriving in the UK - unless exempt- must quarantine for a mandatory 10 days and take a PCR test on day two and day eight of their quarantine. These tests typically cost between £160 and £200, but can cost over £500. Travellers must receive negative results for both tests to leave quarantine after day 10.

But consumer organisations have raised concerns that there are a flood of complaints on social media and review sites about test result delays, with one Facebook group for people suffering problems with the system amassing around 1,500 members, raising concerns about the capacity of the UK’s travel testing system weeks before international travel is set to re-open.

Consumer groups say they raise concerns about the capacity of the UK’s travel testing system weeks before international travel is set to re-open.

The consumer organisation Which? says the travel testing system is "at risk of collapsing" when mass travel restarts.

Airlines have already called for the the competition watchdog to investigate the price of Covid tests for travel, with the travel industry warning that the PCR tests required by government will in effect block most international holidays this year.

Global airline body Iata called on the UK Competition and Markets Authority to launch the inquiry, as separate research showed that travelers had to pay twice as much for PCR tests in the UK as they do in much of Europe.

The report from the government’s ‘global travel taskforce’ said travel could be opened up from May 17 but that individuals would require three PCR tests to holiday even in the safest, “green-light” states – leading to immediate warnings that the cost would prohibit most people from going abroad.


Without test results, travellers face having to pay hundreds of pounds for additional tests or stay in quarantine for longer than they need to, potentially causing problems for those who cannot work from home.

Which? says it understands at present, only four private test providers out of more than 500 on the government’s list of providers have been accredited – Nationwide Pathology, Source Bioscience, Oncologica and Eurofins Forensic Services.

It says that of those four, only Nationwide Pathology and Oncologica offer day two and day eight test kits, raising concerns about oversight of the test providers.

One complainer on Trustpilot one government-listed test provider, claimed that after they didn’t receive results for their day two test, they paid for a ‘Day Five Test to Release Kit’ – which would have allowed them to end their quarantine early on receipt of a negative result – but said “now on day nine, [we] still have no results, so [it was a] waste of £110 plus £175.”

While some providers have blamed delays with Royal Mail deliveries, Royal Mail has said there have been no reported delays in its network related to use of the company’s priority post boxes for managing travellers’ test results.

Under the proposed traffic light system, arrivals from ‘green’ countries must take day two tests, and those from ‘amber’ and ‘red’ countries must take day two and day eight tests, which will mean hundreds of thousands more people rely on the testing system.

Which? has urged the government to urgently address the problems currently affecting the PCR testing market with regard to availability of information, accreditation, pricing and accessibility of tests, as well as the "poor quality" of service by some providers.

The consumer organisation said it should also ensure there are effective consumer protections in place for travellers in the event of any problems with testing, ahead of reopening travel after 17 May.

Rory Boland, Which? travel editor said: “The UK’s travel testing system can't cope with demand, even when relatively small numbers of people are travelling. It’s clear the system could buckle under the pressure when mass international travel restarts and hundreds of thousands more people are reliant on it.

“Travellers shouldn’t have to shop around for something as crucial as a test provider – they simply need a service that is accessible, reliable, and delivered on time. It is critical that the Government addresses issues with testing ahead of restarting international travel, and ensure that travellers are not left to the mercy of poor quality providers or unreliable services when trying to do the right thing in following government requirements to travel safely.”

Oncologica said it  can process up to 40,000 Covid-19 tests a day and that it had not yet reached capacity. 

A spokesman said: “Postal service quality is outside our control; however, we make customers aware of the possibility of shipment delays arising from postal deliveries. This can relate to sample returns indicating they have been returned 'delivered' in the Royal Mail tracked postal system, whereas in fact samples may not yet have been delivered to Oncologica and only have arrived at a Royal Mail depot, which can take up to 24 hours to deliver onto us. In the vast majority of cases, our customers experience no delays and our kits and results are supplied in a timely manner.”

It said that it couldn’t comment on claims by third party test providers that they had received its results late.

Nationwide Pathology added: “We recognise the significant frustrations that UK International Arrivals are currently facing and we all are working extremely hard to make the process as user friendly as possible. We also recognise the significant costs involved for families which is why we have consistently, since the start of this process in March 2021, been one of the least expensive providers on the DHSC list.

“Nationwide Pathology is committed to providing the best service possible. We have performed over 80,000 Day 2 and Day 8 covid tests since the end of March 2021. The vast majority of our clients have no issue and are very happy with the service they receive. Our complaints KPI is 0.29%.

“Unfortunately, even though we use Royal Mail, who are a gold standard logistics provider, they have experienced some delays in getting samples to us. We understand how important results are to customers, but we are simply unable to test a sample that we do not have.”

But a  Royal Mail spokesman said: “There are no reported delays in our network related to people using Royal Mail’s priority post boxes to manage their test results. In fact we continue to receive praise for the high quality of the service we provide to the nation. Every day we service hundreds of thousands of test kits on behalf of the NHS both speedily and efficiently. "