Amazon now sells cheap UK government-approved PCR tests for travel

Dec 15, 2021

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Online retail giant Amazon now sells lower-cost COVID-19 PCR tests. The tests will cost £34.99 ($46.24) each, but will also be sold in discounted bundles, and crucially will be approved by the U.K. government for travel.

The price point is a key aspect of the Amazon program, given that prices for PCR tests can vary widely, with some costing as much as £150 ($200) for some 24-hour services.

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The tests are approved by the U.K. government and can be used for the U.K.’s Day 2, Day 5, Day 8, and Test to Release” protocols. The tests have already have appeared on Amazon’s U.K. site and are now listed on the government’s approved list of COVID test suppliers.

Amazon’s tests will be processed at the company’s lab in Salford, U.K. which was organized last year to process tests for its employees.

The retailer also set up a lab in the U.S., where it started selling home testing kits in the summer to American shoppers via its website. The tests will be sold in various packages that are all listed on the shopping website. Amazon’s Test to Release, while included in the U.K. government’s list of approved services is not currently listed on Amazon’s website as a clear option.

The company actually began selling testing kits in the U.K. earlier this month but was not approved for travelers at that point.

It is hoped that the arrival of Amazon into the COVID-19 test market will bring some stability and security to a retail arena that some say is chaotic and ripe for consumer price-gouging. People traveling to the U.K. who have used some of the lower-cost tests approved by the government have complained that the turnaround times are incredibly slow and that some smaller companies’ test results don’t even arrive.

On the listing for the test on its website, Amazon says its test results will come back “within 24 hours of your sample arriving at the laboratory.”

However, it is worth being aware of Royal Mail closures ahead of time if you’re looking to make use of the test during the festive season. Due to reduce postal services during the holiday period you will be unable to register Amazon test kits from Dec. 23-27 and Dec. 30 through to Jan. 2, 2022. Amazon advises not buying their product if you want or need to test on these days.

U.K. officials have been criticized for failing to properly regulate the test market, which has regained its importance for travelers as the omicron variant threatens to derail the Christmas travel season. Mandatory PCR tests have been re-implemented to track and hopefully contain the spread of the latest strain of the coronavirus.

Related: Traveling soon? Here’s where you can quickly get a COVID-19 PCR test for travel

According to the Guardian, a number of PCR testing deals — including some offering tests for less than £1($1.32) — have been removed from the government site set up to help travelers find COVID-19 tests. Those offers were taken down because of complaints that some testing deals were misleading consumers, as well as service that was called “exceedingly poor.”

Lord Tyrie, the former chairman of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), last week referred to the COVID test marketplace as a “rip-off jungle”.

The CMA has reportedly warned 25 PCR providers to sort out their issues or risk formal investigations.

Despite all this, some travel industry observers say the system is in disrepair and in need of better oversight. The arrival of a large company like Amazon with a better grasp of logistics is thought to be the kind of stabilizing move that will ultimately benefit consumers.

“We welcome Amazon’s new offering. Reliability and transparency are vital, so we hope that the company will meet the standards set by LTIO members,” said Francis Ingham, the independent director of the trade group Laboratory and Testing Industry Organisation.

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