A last-minute stampede of people trying to book Covid-19 tests before Christmas has prompted private firms to offer 24/7 slots to keep up with demand.
Britons are keen to ensure they are free of the virus before mixing with relatives during the relaxation of restrictions on Dec 25.
This has led to a surge in demand for Covid-19 tests, which are usually only available for free on the NHS to those with symptoms and to the people they live with.
People intending to meet up with family and friends, as part of the permitted bubbling with up to two other households, are now taking advantage of the private sector to make sure they are safe to do so.
DAM Health UK, based in Liverpool, is working round the clock to meet demand for those wanting to see their relatives, as well as those planning a festive getaway and need a negative Covid-19 test to fly.
Prof Frank Joseph, director of the company, which specialises in Covid-19 testing, said: “We’re experiencing huge demand for testing at our Rodney Street clinic and for our home testing kits. There has been a significant increase in demand since the beginning of December.
“The demand is so great that we have taken the decision to offer 24-hour testing. People are incredibly anxious to be tested and get the required documentation for travel.
“We are also getting more and more families coming to us who want the reassurance of a negative test result before extending their bubbles during the temporary easing of restrictions.
“The government advises against using NHS testing for travel purposes so we’re expanding our capacity to help people get tests with same day results. We are offering 24-hour testing between now and Christmas and extended testing hours between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.”
Most countries accepting UK travellers now require arrivals to present evidence of a recent negative test and many private labs are operating seven days a week to continue processing tests over the festive period.
If your test is negative, you should then be sent a certificate declaring you Covid-free.
There is some debate about the accuracy of home tests versus those performed at a clinic, as people could self-administer the test incorrectly – making private clinics potentially more attractive.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Individuals should only book PCR tests if they have symptoms of coronavirus – a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste.”