British travelers must go private for PCR tests if they want to travel overseas. The U.K. government started mandatory PCR testing for all arrivals—including tourists—on November 30, 2020, because of the emergence of the Omicron variant.
However, according to a report from The Telegraph, some COVID-19 test suppliers are using “alphabet hacking” to mislead U.K. travelers and improve their ranking on the government list of businesses providing PCR kits for travelers.
A report suggested around one in eight (13%) of private PCR testing firms are currently using punctuation or numerals to beat the site’s filters and promote their products. Sometimes, the cost of the PCR test is four times the figure given on the government website.
When travelers browse through the government website, they can see prices advertised for as low as £15 ($20). However, when they click on the provider’s website, the price of PCR tests can rise to £100.
Gridpoint Consulting found that the site’s top five listed companies—who are also the first choices for travelers at the time—were, “!!! 0-100 Travel 19, !! + + 0 0 44 Tests, ! Covid Testing Direct.com, ! Nomad and !247 Travel Tests.”
There are also hidden charges, such as a £10 ($13) shipping fee for some providers, while others advertised only the “click and collect” rate for their products, yet charged higher amounts for home delivery in remote areas. Although these tactics aren’t illegal, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has criticized the tactics.
U.K. travelers should shop around to find the best deals for PCR tests instead of using the government website.
According to The Telegraph, the average price of a PCR test in the U.K. is £80 ($107). However, it’s possible to find better deals with patience.
British travelers currently cannot use the free public testing system for international travel. However, no free PCR testing centers were available for appointments in England for two hours on Monday afternoon as COVID-19 cases skyrocket to their highest levels since the pandemic began.
Therefore, even if travelers could use free NHS PCR tests for international travel—it would be challenging to get an appointment.
Mass Flight Cancellations
On top of expensive PCR tests, flight cancellations have hit Britain over the Christmas period as staff shortages because of COVID-19 continue.
British Airways canceled 50 flights on Boxing Day—nearly 10 percent of all departures—despite keeping Christmas day cancellations down to only 18. British Airways cut 2,000 flights from its schedule in early December because of reduced demand from the emergence of Omicron.
The mass flight cancellations aren’t just limited to the United Kingdom. China Eastern Airlines canceled 414 flights on Boxing Day and 456 flights on Christmas Day.
On Boxing Day, there were 2,200 flights canceled, adding to 2,300 flights canceled on Christmas Eve and 2,800 flights canceled on Christmas Day.
In the United States, United Airlines, Delta, and JetBlue have canceled hundreds of flights over the Christmas weekend.
The COVID-19 Situation In The U.K.
COVID-19 cases are at record-breaking levels in the United Kingdom following the emergence of Omicron. On Christmas Eve, the U.K. recorded 122,186 cases of COVID-19. This is the most cases in a single day since the pandemic started and a 93,405 rise from the week prior.
The governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have responded by increasing restrictions within the countries. However, England is yet to increase restrictions and has declared they won’t implement new restrictions before New Year’s Eve.
The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure from rival politicians to increase COVID-19 restrictions in England. However, members of his own party are advising against further restrictions until the government knows how dangerous Omicron is.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com