The PCR test: an expensive way to control travelling during COVID-19

Students talk about the difficulties of returning to Groningen after the winter holidays

Photo by Radek Grzybowski on Unsplash

These days, before travelling to another country, passengers must make sure that they have been tested and that they have proof. But the prices of the pre-travelling Coronavirus tests can be expensive. International students talk about the difficulties that they met when they returned to Groningen from their home countries.

Andreea Minculescu, Romania, is one of the students who found out about the mandatory travelling test to the Netherlands, while she was spending the winter holidays with her family. The test cost her 80€, but Andreea considers this expense necessary to reduce the non-essential travel.

Here you can find out more about Andreea’s experience

PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) is the most common pre-travelling Coronavirus test, considered the ‘gold standard’. But the gold comparison does not only illustrate its effectiveness, but also how expensive it is. The prices differ from one country to another. In the Netherlands and Ireland it is approximately 150€, whereas in France the test is free if you have health insurance.

Some countries also require the LAMP test, a test that is not as accurate as the PCR, but faster. The tests have an expiry date that varies from 96 to 48 hours. Most countries consider it valid only for 72 hours, including the Netherlands.

Because of this, Andrej Kovács, Slovakia, had to change his flight and travel 100 kilometres to get tested during the required period. He paid 70€. Although he considers it very important to respect the Corona measures, he found it strange that nobody checked his tests while he was in the airports.

I kind of regret travelling. I just risked the safety of my family and myself. I also have to retake an exam now, because of being quarantined.

Andrej Kovács

The problem of the pricy corona-tests has been noticed since the beginning of the pandemic. Most governments have lowered the price of the COVID-19 test, some being free for symptomatic individuals. But the PCR tests remain expensive, which makes travelling less desirable, and delays the recovery of the travel industry.  

Sofia Turati, Italy, spent 10€ on the flight from Milano to the Netherlands, and 140€ on the pre-travelling tests. “I think that private laboratories are gaining a lot from this, more than the service that they actually provide,” Sofia says. “I think it has become a business”.

Here you can find out more about Sofia’s experience

Advertisings like this also enhance this feeling of distrust in the transparency of some medical centers:

A screenshot of the website of the Romanian clinic Regina Maria, on 4 February 2020

Even though the pre-travelling Coronavirus tests can be expensive and are time consuming, most travellers seem to support these measures. Andrej says: “it made me feel safer that people are legally required to be covid negative when they are on the plane.”

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