The UK’s coronavirus testing system for travellers could “buckle” when foreign holidays resume, a consumer group has warned.
Which? said social media and review sites are already “flooded” with complaints from people who have suffered delays in receiving their test kits and results.
That is despite passenger numbers being a fraction of normal levels due to the ban on overseas leisure travel.
The consumer group claimed the system is “at risk of being overwhelmed, and potentially collapsing” when foreign holidays resume, which is expected to happen for people in England on May 17.
People arriving in England are required to quarantine, and pre-book two PCR tests from a private firm on a Government list.
The two-test package typically costs between £100 and £200, but can exceed £500.
Negative results from both tests – taken on days two and eight after arrival – must be received before someone can leave quarantine.
But travellers have reported long delays in receiving kits or results, forcing them to either pay for additional tests or extend their quarantine period beyond the initial 10-day period.
Demand for tests will soar once holidays resume.
Returning travellers will require one or two post-arrival tests depending on which country they have visited.
Erkal Taskin, who returned from Turkey after visiting his sick father in early April, told Which? he did not receive his day-two test kit until he had been back in the UK for a week, and has still not been given the result of his day-eight test.
He said: “I wasn’t sure when I could leave my house and there was no-one to ask. I ended up waiting for so long before I could go back to work, which was a huge problem.”
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel magazine, said: “The UK’s travel testing system can’t cope with demand, even when relatively small numbers of people are travelling.
“It’s clear the system could buckle under the pressure when mass international travel restarts and hundreds of thousands more people are reliant on it.
“Travellers shouldn’t have to shop around for something as crucial as a test provider. They simply need a service that is accessible, reliable and delivered on time.
“It is critical that the Government addresses issues with testing ahead of restarting international travel, and ensure that travellers are not left to the mercy of poor quality providers or unreliable services when trying to do the right thing in following Government requirements to travel safely.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement: “We are carefully monitoring issues raised by the public, raising every complaint with private test providers.
“We also monitor all providers’ performance, including their delivery and test turnaround times.
“We will take rapid action against any company that is providing an inadequate service.
“In the first instance, they will receive a warning and are given five days to demonstrate they have addressed concerns, and if not, they are removed from the gov.uk list.”