High Cost of COVID-19 Testing: IATA Speaks Out

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IATA’s chief has expressed disappointment at the high cost of COVID-19 testing, accusing testing providers of profiteering from travel and calling on the industry to assess whether PCR tests are necessary in the first place.

Europe’s airlines are counting on a rebound this summer after the COVID-19 pandemic left them struggling with decreased revenues and huge new debts to weather the pandemic.

However, any requirement for PCR tests that can exceed the cost of the flights themselves threatens the recovery.

“We’re clearly seeing evidence of profiteering by people who have jumped on the testing bandwagon,” Willie Walsh, IATA’s new director-general, said at a virtual industry conference on Tuesday.

He said that governments had mandated PCR tests and were then charging value-added tax on the cost of the testing, a scenario which he said needed to be challenged.

“The cost of testing should be significantly lower than it is. I think we’ve got to challenge whether PCR testing is necessary,” he said.

PCR tests, the so-called gold standard test, can cost around 100 pounds ($140) in Britain.

Airline executives, led by EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren, say that PCR tests could make travel too expensive for many and that lateral flow testing or antigen testing, which deliver more rapid results, is cheaper and not as expensive.

“We can’t have a situation where only the wealthy are able to travel. That would be a shame and a disgrace and everyone in the industry should be pushing back,” Walsh said.

When there are other measures in place to help manage risk, Walsh said lateral flow and rapid antigen tests are “just as efficient,” he said.

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