A WIDER choice of test providers will be available for people returning to Wales from overseas to book PCR tests from September 21, Health Minister Eluned Morgan announced on Sunday, September 12.
The change comes as new standards and spot checks are being introduced, which will help to address long-standing concerns and issues about the market for PCR tests for all travellers returning to the UK.
The Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) has also made a series of recommendations to the UK Government to further improve the travel testing market.
All travellers returning to the UK from overseas must take PCR tests on their return home to help identify any new cases of coronavirus and prevent its onward spread. Until now, these must be NHS tests for Welsh residents – people living in other parts of the UK have had a wider choice of test provider.
But concerns have been raised about issues with some of the private test providers, including inaccurate and misleading advertised prices, slow delivery and processing of tests, and results not flowing into Welsh systems.
New legislative standards for private test providers will come into force from September21.
They will include ensuring that test results and genomic sequencing – which is used to identify any new variants – are processed and reported quickly and within a comparable time period to NHS tests.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “Given the new regulations and the impact on standards for private tests, we will make changes to the rules to enable people travelling to Wales to book tests with private sector providers, if they wish. NHS tests will also continue to be available to book.
“These changes will come into effect from September 21 to coincide with the new standards coming into force in England.
“I welcome the progress that has been made in addressing the significant concerns we have raised with UK Government, especially with the introduction of new regulatory standards on September 21. I also expect further improvements following the publication of the CMA report and acceptance of the recommendations to further improve outcomes.
“It’s important to remember that coronavirus is still with us, and our advice continues to be that people should avoid all non-essential international travel.”
Welsh Conservative shadow health minister, Russell George MS said: “This belated U-turn will come as little consolation to the thousands of hardworking Welsh families who’ve been clobbered by Labour’s costly testing scheme.
“Yesterday, we learned that Labour’s testing scheme for holidays was grinding to a halt, so there appears to have been little option but to U-turn and give people more freedom to choose their testing provider.
“Far from something to celebrate, the timing of such an announcement after the conclusion of the summer holidays will anger many families who’ve been forced to fork out hundreds of pounds due to the stubbornness of Labour ministers.”
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