Holidaymakers are reportedly wasting money on private PCR tests with as many as 150,000 results a week not being passed on to track variants.
Travellers are spending more than £11 million on these PCR tests, at a cost of £75 each on average.
The tests have been designed to enable the government to detect the import of variants that could threaten the vaccination programme.
But more than 40% of the results from the 350,000 PCR tests a week on amber list travellers are being recorded as “unregistered” because the travel test firms have failed to pass on holidaymakers’ personal data to the government, according to the Telegraph.
Without this data it would be very difficult for the government to trace individual travellers involved in any outbreak of a dangerous variant that had entered the UK.
The “black hole” in the test firms’ data was reported to have been uncovered by former British Airways’ chief strategist Robert Boyle in newly released government information.
The proportion of “unregistered” test results for travellers returning from amber list countries rose from 15% in June to 43% in the week of August 4.
This means the number of “unregistered” test results rose from 128,000 to 150,000 in the three weeks up to August 4.
Boyle told the newspaper: “Based on what we have seen from the testing data, I think we can add data management as another area where the system is failing dismally and seems to be in a state of disarray.
“For a system whose primary purpose is to provide decision-makers with high quality intelligence on travellers arriving in the UK, that is a big issue.
“The data are being provided by the traveller in most cases but are disappearing into a test-provider black hole, and is never being passed on to Test and Trace.
“Despite being promoted on the government’s own website, a lot of [the test providers] look like cowboys to me.”
Compliants have been mounting against rip-off charges for Covid tests for travel and delays in results leading to holidaymakers missing flights.
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “It’s clear that the government has been given multiple warnings about the many problems with the private Covid travel testing system but didn’t act fast enough.
“The result is thousands of people who have already been ripped off and many more who will have been unable to reunite with loved ones overseas or take a holiday because of the prohibitively high cost of tests.
“The priority for government and regulators must now be to come up with solutions. This should include considering a price cap to cut the cost of tests, and the Competition and Markets Authority should take action against any firms found to be charging excessive or misleading prices.”