Covid-19’s flight testing rules have finally been clarified by Government.
Passengers had previously been concerned that there would be a 48-hour break after the test and were worried about airlines turning them away.
There have been conflicting advice from government departments. For example, the Department for Health said “two days”, while the Department for Transport stated that it took 48 hours.
Yesterday, MailOnline was contacted by passengers to seek clarifications from officials as the queues at continent testing centers grew.
Different Government publications state that the test should be completed ‘not earlier than 48 hours’, in the two following days’ or even ‘two working days’ before travel.
The different guidance makes it difficult to know if a flight departs at 8 pm on Friday.
MailOnline was informed today by the Department of Health that if a passenger plans to fly at 9 p.m. on Friday, and has taken a medical test within 2 days prior to departure, they are covered for two consecutive days regardless of the date the test was performed on Wednesday.
Fresh curbs have been introduced from today in response to the Omicron variant, with non-vaccinated British travellers aged 12 and over now banned from entering Spain.
Yesterday saw lines at the Fuerteventura-Tenerife centres as Brits waited to get eligible swabs, before they could fly home.
The queues of angry holidaymakers stretched for hours as they waited to be given a lateral flight test in Tenerife before returning to Britain. Around 200 British tourists queued in Tenerife for their lateral flow test before flying home to the UK yesterday.
From 4am today all people aged 12 years and over must take a PCR or LFD Covid-19 test before they travel to England from abroad.
Before the 4am cutoff, the guidance was clearer: “Until 4am on 7/12, you may take the test at any time during the three days preceding the departure of the service.
“For example, if your flight is from England to England, the Friday test could be taken on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. For boarding, the result of your test must be in hand.
However, there wasn’t any clarity regarding guidance from December 7 to today.
While one Government website page, titled Coronavirus testing before you travel to England, warned travellers: ‘You must take the test in the 2 days before your service to England departs. The test must be taken if you are traveling to England on a multi-leg trip.
There were dozens of UK tourists queuing up to receive their Covid test in Correljo and Fuerteventura. One tourist said, “Precious holiday wasted, no compensation, and completely unnecessary.”
Another page, titled Tests required before travel to UK and Nigeria added to red list, reads: ‘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.’
MailOnline received a confusing passenger who said: “If you fly at 11am on Friday but you pass the Covid exam at 9am on Wednesday, you will be fine even though the rule says it is for 2 days.” However, the 48-hour rule would prohibit boarding from flights departing at 11am on Friday if it was taken during the Covid test. It would also mean that boarding would not be permitted if the flight arrives at 11am on Friday.
The airline claimed that the 48-hour rule is misleading. However, the regulations state that a traveller can be stranded at any point between the days preceding the departure and the date of their flight.
MailOnline asked the Department for Health and Social Care for clarification. A spokesperson referred to an earlier press release that stated: “Given Omicron’s shorter incubation time, it is recommended that passengers take the pre-departure testing as soon as they are scheduled to depart to the UK and not later than 48 hours prior to travel.
Questioned by concerned holidaymakers on Twitter, the FCDO Travel Advice advised Britons not to read a Government press release for 48 hours. They still considered it two days.
FCDO’s travel advice advised Britons, when questioned by anxious holidaymakers via Twitter, to disregard a Government press statement that was published 48 hours ago and to still believe it to have been two days.
The FCDO Travel Advice was a helpful resource for confused travelers. It could point them directly to the government website.
The Coronavirus Testing Before You Travel to England page of the Government states that travellers must undergo the Coronavirus Test within two days prior to their service departing to England. The test must be taken if you are traveling to England on a multi-leg trip.
A second page, entitled Tests Required Before Travel to UK and Nigeria, is titled: “In light of emerging evidence regarding the Omicron variant,” states that anyone 12 years old or older who wants to travel to UK must show a negative predeparture test (LFD/PCR) no later than 24 hours prior to their departure. This will slow down the importation process for the new variant.
Twitter: “Please adhere to the instructions regarding the predeparture tests as opposed the release.”
Will D. Smith, a Twitter user wrote that they should change their press release. This incorrect information only leads to greater uncertainty. News outlets report flight status 48 hours prior, and not 2 days. This is going to really cause havoc for passengers.
It comes after Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, warned that the travel sector must not be used as a ‘punchbag’ by governments.
He said, “Whenever there’s a tightening of the measures it’s an extra barrier that deters people from booking.”
“Whether there is talk about quarantine or additional testing, these measures are a hindrance to confidence.”
He stated that restrictions were imposed because there was uncertainty about the variant and added: “That is why we urgently need to reach a conclusion on this variant.”
England doesn’t require pre-departure screenings, but arrivals are required to take a PCR testing on day one or earlier and then quarantine until they receive a positive result.
This week, a leaked document from SAGE advisors to the Government stated that pre-departure testing would prove ‘valuable.