The staggering price difference between the two countries has been accompanied by increasing chaos in Britain as some providers struggle to cope with demand. Anybody entering the UK from amber list countries such as France, Spain, Italy or the US needs to book two PCR tests for days two and eight of their return.
Providers advertised on the government website include the Mayfair GP Clinic in central London, which is charging £575 for a test package.
The cheapest option on the approved list is £81 for two swab tests, which clients do themselves and then put in the post. French nationals and foreigners are charged nothing for the same service at government-approved clinics in Paris.
“PCR tests are free to anybody who turns up,” said a member of staff at the MLab centre in the Marais district. “Swab tests are carried out straight away — there is not normally a queue — and results are emailed within a few hours.” She added: “We do not expect people to test themselves, then put their samples in the post — professionals are on hand to do everything.” All those entering Britain from France need a negative PCR test to show the UK authorities, which they can get for free before they leave.
But they are then forced to pay private providers for two tests in the UK. If they fail to do this, the travellers cannot be released from the compulsory 10 days of isolation.
They can seek to end their quarantine after five days, but this means paying extra for a third PCR test.
“The British system is not just a rip off, it doesn’t work,” a Eurostar passenger who arrived in London from Paris last week told the Standard.
Louis, 48, who did not want to give his surname, said: “I got my PCR tests in France for nothing, but then paid through the nose to a British company for three tests. None of them arrived on time, and then they were lost or delayed in the post after I sent them back.
“The day five result was never sent to me, meaning I had to isolate for 10 days instead of five days, and even then I had to use another company for a new test. I’m now fighting for a refund from the company that let me down.”
RT Diagnostics — the Halifax-based company used by Louis — is still on the UK government approved list.
Clients of the company have complained about being unable to reach it by phone or email, and today it was showing a two-out-of-five-stars “poor” rating on review website Trustpilot.
RT Diagostics blamed “courier issues” for long delays, and said they were trying to deal with a backlog of tests.
Antigen tests — which are less reliable than PCR tests and which can be obtained for free in most parts of Britain and France — are not recognised for travel in the UK.
A negative Antigen test is now being accepted by the French for anyone who wants to enter the country from Britain, as long as it is accompanied by proof of two coronavirus vaccination jabs.