Updated at 6pm, October 22
The government’s online list of lateral flow test providers crashed on its first day, amid criticism that many of the cheaper options were not available.
From Sunday (October 24), fully vaccinated arrivals in England can opt for a day-two lateral flow test instead of a more expensive PCR option.
The list of providers went live on Friday morning (October 22) so travellers could order their tests – but there were reports the site had crashed. When it was live, many users found it difficult to find a provider with tests for sale.
On Friday evening, it the site had a message saying it was “offline for maintenance due to high demand”.
It added: “While we work to bring the site fully online, please find below a list of providers that currently offer Lateral Flow Tests.” The list has 24 providers, with prices shown between £18 and £39.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive, said on Twitter on Friday morning: “If you’re overseas right now, trying to complete a dreaded #passengerlocatorform in the knowledge that you can now pre order a cheaper lateral flow test – you won’t be able to unless you can establish which private test providers have been authorised. The gov website is down.
“The government’s own pages showing private lateral flow test providers has crashed. Before it crashed it was showing misleading pricing, incorrect information and the navigation was clunky. It launched today #travel”
If you’re overseas right now, trying to complete a dreaded #passengerlocatorform in the knowledge that you can now pre order a cheaper lateral flow test – you wont be able to unless you can establish which private test providers have been authorised. The gov website is down.
— Julia Lo Bue-Said (@jlo_said) October 22, 2021
She also commented: “This is appalling. An embarrassing mess, it’s not difficult to get right and now the system appears to be unavailable.”
Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, also tweeted, saying: “The government has released its list of day two lateral flow providers.
“The problem? The first two providers on the list don’t sell day 2 lateral flow tests. Shambolic.”
Other users reported problems finding tests in their region. A search for tests in the east of England produced one provider, Project Screen by Prenetics, which offers day-two lateral flow antigen tests for £22.
However, its website had a message for travellers: “To ensure our high service levels are maintained for every customer, sales are temporarily on hold for a short period of time.”
Another search for tests in London led to the Testing For All website, but there was a digital queue of more than 2,500 for any users trying to buy a kit.
Two weeks ago, anxious travellers faced another technological hurdle when the NHS Covid Pass suffered a widespread outage, meaning many could not prove their vaccinated status – including one person who claimed they missed their flight because of the problem.
Agents have been reporting ‘bumper’ late sales following news of the switch from PCR to lateral flow tests for arrivals in England. The change in requirement for day-two tests for arrivals is expected to save a family of four about £100.
The Welsh government announced on Friday it would also accept lateral flow tests for arrivals into Wales, but only from October 31, which is too late for the half-term holidays.
Home page picture of lateral flow test by Daisy Daisy/Shutterstock