Holidaymakers in Portugal and Spain are among those being forced to queue for hours to get hold of Covid tests before jetting home – but they don’t even know if they will be eligible
British holidaymakers were left furious after being forced to queue for pre-flight Covid tests after confusion over whether it needs to be done two days before or not more than 48 hours from take-off.
The new regulations only came into force on Tuesday morning, leaving many passengers in a scramble and confused over when they need to take a PCR test to ensure they are eligible to travel.
However, with queues at testing centres on the continent growing, Brits were left baffled by the contradictory advice being issued by the government.
Different publications from the UK government appeared to be advising travellers differently, with one saying tests must be taken ‘no earlier than 48 hours before’, another advising ‘in the two days before’, while another said it was ‘two days before’ travel.
One passenger said: “If your flight leaves at 11am on Friday and you take the Covid test at 9am on Wednesday you are fine if the rule is 2 days. But if the rule is 48 hours, taking a test at 9am Wednesday would not permit boarding if the flight is at 11am Friday as it would be two hours outside the 48 hour window.
“Travellers can get stranded if the airlines think it’s 48 hours but the rules actually say any time on the two days before the day of the flight.”
Another tweeted: “As usual PCR at Heathrow not able to cope. #expresstest long queues at arrivals”.
Another irritated traveller wrote: “For anyone who says it isn’t a problem to get a pcr test done pre or post flight this is the queue at Mcr airport drive through. We have an appointment and been here 20mins already and will probably be at least an hour more”.
The extra restrictions were brought in following the discovery of the Omicron variant, thought to have originated in southern Africa, with non-vaccinated Brits over the age of 12 barred from travelling to Spain.
Travellers took to social media in a bid to get answers from the government but, in some cases, matters were complicated further by government Twitter accounts telling passengers to ignore its previously published guidance.
The Foreign Office told one traveller: “Please follow the guidance regarding the pre-departure test as opposed to the press release.”
One angry Twitter user wrote: “Shouldn’t they change the press release? The incorrect information there just leads to more uncertainty and all news outlets are reporting 48 HOURS before flight not 2 DAYS because that is what the press release says. This will really mess travelers up.”
Holidaymakers in hotspot destinations such as the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, as well as Fuerteventura and Tenerife, have seen long lines of Brits waiting at Covid test centres to secure eligible swabs before flying home.
Many were left furious that the lack of clarity meant they were giving up hours of their holiday to get tests they were unsure would be eligible or necessary.
For example, one Government website page, titled Coronavirus testing before you travel to England, tells travellers: “You must take the test in the 2 days before your service to England departs. If your journey to England is a multi-leg journey, you must take the test in the 2 days before the start of the first leg.”
But another page, titled Tests required before travel to UK and Nigeria added to red list, says: “In light of emerging evidence on the Omicron variant, from 4am on Tuesday 7 December anyone aged 12 and above wishing to travel to the UK will need to show a negative pre-departure test (LFD or PCR) as close as possible to departure and not more than 48 hours before to slow the importation of the new variant.”
While there is no requirement for pre-flight tests in England, all arrivals must take a PCR test on or before day two and quarantine at home until they get a negative result.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.