Travellers paying for costly PCR tests rarely checked for variants

Tens of thousands of travellers are paying out millions of pounds for expensive PCR tests that are not being sequenced by the Government to check for variants, official figures reveal.

Only one in 10,000 of the travellers from green and amber countries who paid up to £100 apiece for PCR tests have been checked for variants of concern, according to an analysis of newly-released Government data.

The ability to genome sequence the PCR tests for variants has been used by ministers as the main reason for requiring travellers to pay for them, even if they have been fully vaccinated.

The figures exposing the “sham” genome testing by the Government have been uncovered and analysed by Robert Boyle, a former British Airways strategist.

They show that 200,000 people arriving from green and amber countries over a three-week period to June 9 had to take and pay for PCR tests after arrival.

None of those from green countries tested positive, but 720 of the 192,216 passengers from amber destinations were tested positive.

This is equivalent to just one in 250, or 0.4 per cent, of all amber list arrivals, despite them having to quarantine for up to 10 days and pay for two further PCR tests on days two and eight.

Of those 720 tests, just 20 were genome sequenced for variants, equivalent to only 2.7 per cent, and no variants were found in them.

That means that only 20 out of 200,000 passengers’ test samples were sequenced (a rate of 0.0001 per cent) despite the travellers having paid out at least £11 million (assuming tests at £30 apiece) or up to £30 million if they cost £100 a time.

Mr Boyle said: “The main justification given by the government for the need for these tests is to allow them to do genomic sequencing of arrivals into the UK, in order to spot variants of concern. In fact, only 20 of these samples were sent for sequencing and no variants of concern were detected. 

“The Government can’t even be bothered to sequence the tests it is forcing the travelling public to take, at great expense and inconvenience.”

Traffic light travel restrictions

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “Either these tests are required for sequencing or they’re not. They’re asking people to fork out hundreds of pounds yet the data isn’t even being checked.

“Seven out of ten amber countries aren’t registering positive cases at all, and no variants have been detected from the amber list. It’s all there in black and white.

“It is more proof the system needs to be overhauled – with more green countries added to the travel list, exemptions for fully vaccinated passengers and cheaper and quicker testing where it’s needed.”

A senior Tory MP said: “The reality is that the Department of Health and Public Health England have been deliberately using the data in a way that has helped keep things completely locked down, even though it was misleading to do so.”

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “It’s an absolute disgrace that the Government is forcing people to these tests so they can be sequenced and they haven’t done it. It is an outrage.

"What is the point of them otherwise? It is a Matt Hancock policy that needs to be investigated and should form part of the future national inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.”

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