Travel PCR testing rules in Wales to be reviewed

The Welsh government could scrap a ban on travellers using private Covid tests when returning from abroad.

Rules say travellers from Wales should use NHS tests, costing £68 each, when going overseas or face a £1,000 fine.

First minister Mark Drakeford had said in July he had no plans to change the preferred approach in Wales of using NHS tests as the Welsh government was advising against foreign travel.

But a Welsh government spokesman said the policy is now being reviewed following a BBC Wales investigation.

It found that Welsh travellers had been able to use private PCR tests without facing any repercussions.

Wales is now the only UK nation requiring those who have been abroad to use NHS PCR tests on day two of their return – and day eight if unvaccinated – at a cost of £68 each.

The Scottish government announced last Friday that it would follow England and Northern Ireland in allowing travellers to use PCR tests provided by private companies on their return from international travel.

Drakeford said in July that there were no plans to make it easier for people from Wales to travel internationally.

That is why the more expensive NHS test is preferable and guarantees variants from abroad can be “spotted quickly”.

He said at the time: “I don’t intend to divert the activities of my officials into making it easier for people to do something that the Welsh government so clearly thinks is unadvisable.”

Conservative MP David TC Davies last week called for Wales’ Labour government to change the rules so that tracellers could “shop around” for PCR tests offered by private companies, which can be cheaper.

Davies, a UK government Wales Office minister, said: “No-one is allowed to break the rules. Although I’m not happy with the situation in Wales, people have to follow Welsh rules.”

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced a review into the Covid testing system earlier tis month after complaints about pricing and performance among some private providers in England.

A number of Welsh travellers have told BBC Wales they have used private PCR tests without any issues.

The Welsh government has said anyone who arrives in Wales and has booked tests with a private test provider could still face a fine of £1,000.

A spokesperson told the BBC: “We continue to review the position with regard to private testing in Wales and are working with the UK government to ensure that only those companies who achieve mutually agreed standards are allowed to provide tests.

“It is critical any positive cases and harmful variants are identified at the earliest opportunity.

“For this reason, for the time being, we require the tests to be provided by the NHS, so that we can identify positive cases as quickly as possible for our Test, Trace, Protect system to follow up.”

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