Chaos flight test for Brits with conflicting government advice on Covid swabs
British travelers today raved about baffling government ‘guidelines’ about when to do pre-flight Covid tests – with conflicting statements about whether it’s two days before or no more than 48 hours after takeoff.
Passengers contacted MailOnline to request clarification from officials as queues at test centers increased across the continent.
Several government publications say the test should be taken ‘no earlier than 48 hours before’, ‘in the two days before’ and even ‘two days before’ travel.
If a flight departs at 8pm on Friday, the various opinions make it unclear whether a test taken at 5pm on Wednesday is eligible for travel.
In response to the Omicron variant, new curbs have been introduced from today, banning unvaccinated British travelers aged 12 and over from entering Spain.
MailOnline contacted the Ministry of Health for clarification and referred to a document stating that tests should be taken ‘no earlier than 48 hours before departure’.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told a confused traveler: ‘Follow the guidelines regarding the pre-departure test as opposed to the press release.’
Government press officers informed MailOnline that they would ask for more clarity in the morning.
That came too late for the tourists who had to spend precious hours of their vacation yesterday queuing for tests. Centers in Fuerteventura and Tenerife have seen long lines of Brits waiting to get eligible swabs before flying home.
Furious holidaymakers have been forced to queue for hours to get a lateral flow test before flying back to the UK. Pictured, about 200 British holidaymakers lined up this morning for lateral flow tests in Tenerife before flying back to the UK
As of 4am today, all people aged 12 and over must take a PCR or LFD Covid-19 test before traveling to England from abroad.
The guidelines for travelers before that 4am cut-off were clearer: ‘Until 4am on December 7, you can take the test at any time in the 3 days before the service you arrive in England with leaves.
‘For example, if you travel directly to England on Friday, you can take a test on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. The test result must be available for boarding.’
But that clarity is no longer there from today.
While a government website entitled Coronavirus Tests Before Traveling to England warns travelers: ‘You must take the test in the 2 days before your shift leaves for England. If your trip to England is a multi-stage trip, you must take the test in the 2 days before the start of the first leg.’
Dozens of British travelers line up to pass their Covid tests in Correljo, Fuerteventura. One holidaymaker said: ‘Valuable holiday time wasted, no compensation and totally unnecessary’
Another page entitled Tests required before travel to UK and Nigeria added to the red list reads: ‘In light of emerging evidence about the Omicron variant, from 4 a.m. Tuesday, December 7, anyone aged 12 and over who want to travel to the UK as close to departure as possible and show a negative pre-departure test (LFD or PCR) no more than 48 hours in advance to delay the introduction of the new variant.’
One confused passenger told MailOnline: ‘If your flight leaves at 11am on Friday and you take the Covid test at 9am on Wednesday, then you’re fine if the rule is 2 days. But if the rule is 48 hours, taking a test at 9am on Wednesday wouldn’t allow you to board if the flight is at 11am on Friday, as it would be two hours outside the 48-hour window.”
They added: “Travellers can get stuck if the airlines think it’s 48 hours, but the rules actually say any time in the two days before the day of the flight.”
When MailOnline put the question to the Ministry of Health and Social Care, a spokesperson referred us to an earlier press release, which read: “Given the shorter incubation time of the Omicron variant, passengers are advised to complete the pre-departure test for as short a time as possible.” to lay. possible until their scheduled departure for the UK and no earlier than 48 hours before departure.’
When polled on Twitter by concerned holidaymakers, FCDO’s travel advisory told Brits to ignore a government press release saying 48 hours and still consider it two days.
When polled on Twitter by concerned holidaymakers, FCDO’s travel advice told Brits to ignore a government press release that read 48 hours and still consider it two days
Confused travelers turned to the FCDO travel advisory, which could only direct them to the government website
A government webpage entitled Coronavirus Testing Before Traveling to England warns travelers: ‘You must take the test in the 2 days before your shift leaves for England. If your trip to England is a multi-stage trip, you must take the test in the 2 days before the start of the first leg’
Another page entitled Tests required before travel to UK and Nigeria added to the red list reads: ‘In light of emerging evidence about the Omicron variant, from 4 a.m. Tuesday, December 7, anyone aged 12 and over who want to travel to the UK, as close to departure as possible and show a negative pre-departure test (LFD or PCR) no more than 48 hours in advance to delay the introduction of the new variant’
It tweeted: “Follow guidelines regarding pre-departure testing as opposed to press release.”
One Twitter user with the handle Will D. Smith wrote, “Shouldn’t they change the press release? The misinformation there only leads to more uncertainty and all news outlets report 48 HOURS before the flight and not 2 DAYS because that’s what the press release says. This will really confuse travelers.’
It comes after Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, warned that the travel industry should not be used as a ‘loot bag’ by governments.
“If we see measures being tightened up, those are additional barriers that keep people from booking,” he said.
‘Whether it concerns quarantine or additional testing, these measures form a barrier to people’s trust.’
He said that “restrictions have only been put in place because of the uncertainty about the variant itself,” adding: “Therefore, we urgently need a thorough conclusion on this variant.”
England has no requirement for pre-departure testing, but all arrivals must undergo a PCR test on or before day two and be quarantined at home until they get a negative result.
A leaked document from the government’s SAGE advisers this week said pre-departure testing would be “valuable”.