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Home » Travel latest news: Confusion reigns as testing for arrivals delayed

Travel latest news: Confusion reigns as testing for arrivals delayed

The Government is under fire after announcing a last-minute delay to new testing rules for travellers, causing widespread confusion and leaving many out of pocket.

A new requirement for international arrivals to show proof of a negative Covid test before departing for the UK was supposed to come into effect on Friday amidst rising concerns over new coronavirus variants emerging in other countries.

Air passengers were told they must present a valid test result obtained within 72 hours of departure before boarding their flights, although many expressed confusion over which tests would be accepted.

But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced in the early hours of the morning that the introduction of the new rule will now be postponed until Monday in order to “give international arrivals time to prepare”.

A number of people have now taken to social media to complain, pointing out that the tests they paid for in order to enter the country over the weekend are now redundant.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow Home Secretary, said: “The Government has lacked a comprehensive airport testing policy through this pandemic and now it is slipping into utter chaos.

“Issuing statements in the middle of the night, because their proposals are unworkable, causes ever greater challenges for travellers and industry.

“This chronic failure is also putting us at risk yet again, from strains such as those that emerged in South Africa and Brazil. As ever, Ministers are too slow to act and it’s putting people at serious risk.”

Scroll down for more updates.

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More confusion over Government testing rules

The Foreign Office has updated its destination advice pages with information on local testing facilities, ostensibly to help travellers obtain the requisite negative Covid test results before they depart for the UK.

But Emma Beaumont has found, in many cases, that the links provided only add to the confusion. Here are some of her findings:


The FCDO link takes you down a rabbit hole of clicks, each website promising the next one will have the answer. 

Covid testing is controlled on a state level, with all having different arrangements. In some areas, testing is only available to local residents. The New York website makes me take an online assessment of symptoms and potential contacts in order to book a test. It needs everything from Zip code to any underlying conditions. After you press submit it is unclear if/when you will be approved for a test. 

On the Texas website there are links to drive-through test sites and once I click there is another form. Questions include symptom checks and, more unusually, whether I wear a mask outside. At the end I am told I am ineligible for a test.

The general CDC website (also linked to by the FCDO) suggests all passengers travelling internationally from the US should get a test, so it’s surprising they don’t have clearer info on pre-departure tests.


Link provided simply takes you to a general Covid heath website, with guidelines on the curfew and other restrictions, but not pre-departure tests.

A Google search reveals a website with more info on how to get tests, with a map of clinics –  though it’s geared towards residents rather than visitors. 

Further research shows that Antigen tests can be purchased at pharmacies, costing from €9.45 up to €15. If the Government confirms rapid tests are allowed to be shown, France may emerge as an easier holiday option this summer.


Link to a general health website, with a Covid subsection. There is a page for travel, but it says it is “under construction”. A number for a ‘National Covid Helpline’ is provided, but feels like this isn’t geared towards tests for travellers.


England’s greatest wildlife spectacle – just a couple of hours from London

You do not have to venture far from the capital for a sensational wildlife safari, as James Litston found out on his latest jaunt to the East Anglian seaside. He writes:

Midwinter on the 
Norfolk coast may not exactly be beach weather, but the bodies stretched out on the strand seem totally in their element. From the shallows to the sandy shore and all the way up to the dunes, they mill about or take leisurely naps, filling the width of the beach. Wrapped in thick blubber and slick, silky coats (dark slate for the adults, pure white for the pups), they all seem quite oblivious to the bitter North Sea wind. We sightseers may be shivering as we bob in a boat, admiring their antics, but conditions here could not be more ideal for these grey seals.

We’re at Blakeney National Nature Reserve and this is Blakeney Point, a shingly spit whose habitat hosts England’s largest grey seal colony. Winter’s far from balmy conditions may not appeal to beach-loving humans, but they suit the seals so well that this is the peak of their pupping season. 

Read the full article.

Head to Norfolk for a sensational English safari

Head to Norfolk for a sensational English safari

‘Travel is becoming too complicated’ 

Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, has urged the Government to overhaul its approach to travel before the current lockdown is lifted. 

He says:

With few bookings currently being made for future travel, now is the time for a wholesale rethink of the current procedures for when lockdown ends, hopefully by March, when some 30 million UK citizens should have been vaccinated. Travelling is becoming too complicated, with consumers having to carry out too much research before they book, and that is reducing confidence.

We now need to see a clear traffic light system introduced to help consumers, as in the EU, showing whether a country is red, amber or green. Red would mean you can’t enter the UK without a pre-arrival test and 10-day quarantine; amber would mean you take a pre-arrival test only; and green would mean you are free to enter without any test needed. Those who have been vaccinated would also have to abide by these rules. 

This clarity would enable the travel sector to give up-to-date and clear guidance and enable consumers to easily check which category their country is in. We may have left the EU but we can still use the effective advice system it defined.


Guidance on testing likely to baffle many travellers  

The Foreign Office (FCDO) has finally revealed which types of Covid test will be accepted from Monday, when the requirement to present evidence of a negative result upon arrival in the UK comes into force. 

Unfortunately, you might need a degree in virology to understand it. 

Its website states: “The test must meet performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml. This could include tests such as: a nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests; an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device.”

Presumably your clinic will be able to confirm whether its tests fit the bill. 

The FCDO adds: “It is your responsibility to ensure the test meets the minimum standards for sensitivity, specificity and viral load details so you must check with your test provider that it meets those standards.

“You may not be able to travel if the test does not meet these standards. It is your responsibility to ensure you get the right test that meets the above requirements.

“Where information about providers of tests is available locally, FCDO travel advice pages will be updated with this information. If you need consular assistance should contact the nearest consulate, embassy or high commission.”


Chart: Coronavirus in Brazil

In the early months of the pandemic, Brazil became the South American epicentre of coronavirus infections, since when it has maintained a consistently high infection rate.

The seven-day caseload is currently 209.9 per 100,000, higher than any of its neighbouring countries bar Colombia.


‘Vaccine-confidence’ fuels holiday boom among the over-50s

A surge in holiday bookings for the spring and summer is being driven “vaccine-confidence” among the over-50s.

Travel firms are reporting a sales boom thanks to bookings from older customers, many of whom will be among the first to be inoculated against Covid-19.

Andrew Flintham, the managing director of  TUI, said: “We’re seeing a customer base or age group that wasn’t booking before, that is starting to book. The over-50s, we assume, is on the back to the vaccine news.  

“People are booking later into the summer, hedging their bets. More July and August and a lot of demand for September and October. People are booking longer holidays, we’re seeing more people booking 10 or 11 or 14 nights rather than seven. People are maybe catching up on what they’ve missed.”  

Tour operators have also noticed a growing demand for multigenerational holidays.

“It is family time we’ve all missed. We can’t get away from our own families, but our broader families we can’t see, and that’s feeding into our choices,” said Mr Flintham.

beach spain

Travel firms are seeing more bookings from those over 50 years old



Is anyone actually flying in from Brazil right now? 

The Government has been urged to ban travellers from Brazil over fears about yet another new Covid variant, writes Oliver Smith. However, Brazil has already banned all flights from the UK over the variant discovered by British scientists last month, so there are currently no direct services between the two countries. British Airways usually operates flights from Heathrow to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but none have run so far this year. 

Travellers from Brazil can reach the UK via a third country, although options are limited. If they want to fly via the US they require US citizenship or a visa, leaving Mexico and Portugal two of the most likely routes. They would still be required to isolate for 10 days after reaching UK soil (and from Monday present evidence of a negative test), although doubts have been raised about how strictly the quarantine policy is being enforced. 


Government blasted for ‘middle of the night’ decision to delay pre-departure testing

Labour has lambasted the Government’s decision to delay new airport testing rules until next week, arguing that the it puts people “at serious risk.”

A new requirement for all international arrivals to present proof of a negative Covid test before departing for the UK was originally intended to come into effect tomorrow, but has now been postponed until Monday to “give international arrivals time to prepare.”

Nick Thomas-Symonds, shadow home secretary, said: “The Government has lacked a comprehensive airport testing policy through this pandemic and now it is slipping into utter chaos.

“Issuing statements in the middle of the night, because their proposals are unworkable, causes ever greater challenges for travellers and industry.

“This chronic failure is also putting us at risk yet again, from strains such as those that emerged in South Africa and Brazil. As ever, Ministers are too slow to act and it’s putting people at serious risk.”


British skiers turned away 

French border police sent a group of skiers packing yesterday. The group were attempting to travel to Switzerland (where ski resorts are open), via France, on the Eurostar at St Pancras.

London-based Eurostar train manager Justin shared the news of the failed attempt to break lockdown travel rules on Twitter, saying “A ski trip to Switzerland does not count as essential travel on Eurostar.”


Australian premier proposes using Outback mining camps to quarantine travellers

The state premier of Queensland is pushing for quarantined travellers to be relocated to remote mining camps after a Covid outbreak at a Brisbane hotel forced the city into a three-day lockdown.

People arriving in Australia are currently required to enter isolation in state-designated hotels, but concerns are now being raised after a cleaner at a hotel in central Brisbane was found to have contracted the UK coronavirus variant.

Queensland’s head of government, Annastacia Palaszczuk, is now urging the National Cabinet to consider the proposal, arguing that many of these camps are comfortable and would provide balconies or other outside space for internees.

However, there is some opposition from politicians in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state,  with NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard countering: “There’s strong views held in our public health team it makes sense to continue to have the hotel quarantine arrangements we currently have.”


‘Surely it’s now time to scrap the travel corridor’ 

Jonny Bealby, founder of adventure tour operator Wild Frontiers, argues that a combination of testing rules, quarantine and FCDO advice is killing the travel industry:

Right now interest in booking holidays has all but stalled. Never mind the legal ban on leisure travel during lockdown, even when we are allowed to travel again we will still have to contend with quarantine, a seemingly ever dwindling travel corridor list, an almost blanket FCDO advice against travel – making comprehensive travel insurance impossible to find – and now the new Covid PCR tests requirements before being allowed back into the country.

With all the uncertainty involved in that it seems the public have thrown in the towel on hoping for a holiday and are doing little more than waiting to see what happens next. Surely it’s now time to scrap the travel corridor list, remove Covid related FCDO advice against all but essential travel, and start to implement a vaccine passport.

Vaccinating its citizens is the one positive area that the UK is ahead, and is the one chance I see for leisure travel returning any time soon. You have to show a yellow fever stamp in your inoculation card if entering certain African countries, so what’s the difference?


It’s ‘Travel Corridor Day’

Another Thursday, another update to the travel corridor list expected later today from Grant Shapps. It’s possibly too much to expect new countries to be added to the UK’s ‘green list’, but there are several contenders for removal.

These are the destinations in the crosshairs, along with their seven-day case rates:

Barbados (91.9 per 100,000)

Chile (141.5 per 100,000)

Bahrain (128.4 per 100,000)

St Vincent and the Grenadines (136 per 100,000)


New test for arrival rules pushed back till Monday as confusion reigns over which tests will be accepted

The Department for Transport (DfT) has been forced to delay its pre-departure testing for passengers after a backlash from the travel industry over hold-ups in guidance for the new regime, reports Charles Hymas.

Passengers and airlines are to get a weekend grace period when they will not be fined after being left in limbo over the types of Covid tests that would be accepted by border officials when they arrived in the UK.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, had promised last week the DfT would detail the “specificity” and “sensitivity” required of the tests, whether the gold standard PCR, which can cost up to £180, or the cheaper more rapid LAMP or lateral flow versions.

But even by yesterday evening there was still no guidance with the new law requiring all travellers into the UK to have a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departure due to come into force at 4am tomorrow (Fri).

Read the full story.


Good morning

Before we begin, here are yesterday’s main headlines:

  • Poland’s tourism businesses and ski resorts defy lockdown measures
  • Vaccine passport for international travel branded ‘discriminatory’
  • Arrivals into UK see only ‘very basic’ checks  – if any
  • British ski operator gets new lease of life 
  • Cruise lines continue to delay return to water
  • Fire ravages luxury hotel in Malaysia
  • Mass vaccinations to begin at Disneyland
  • Exclusive: Vaccine passports to be trialled by thousands of Britons

Source: The Telegraph Travels

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