Travel: Paul Charles warns travel testing is 'recipe for chaos’
Covid tests must be taken by travellers entering the UK from next week in a bid to limit the spread of the deadly virus. Anyone who boards a plane, train or boat to this country without a negative test result will be not allowed to travel or risk a £500 fine. Quarantine rules as per the travel corridor list still apply.
While the travel industry has been fighting for airport tests for months, these new rules on top on self-isolation may pose extensive problems for travellers.
“I welcome the fact that the government is finally putting this in place,” said CEO of travel consultancy, The PC Agency, Paul Charles on BBC News this morning as he detailed his travel advice.
“As always, though, it’s the detail when you look at it closer that sometimes doesn’t stack up.
“For example, if you’re on holiday abroad at any point in the future and you have to get a test urgently within 72 hours, will you get those results back in time before you then have to get on your flight or your ferry or your Eurostar and return to the UK?
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“There’s a lot of minutiae and detail that the government has not yet released about the exact nature of the test that they’re prepared to accept.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this morning confirmed that most covid tests would be accepted in terms of PCR tests, lateral flow tests or so-called LAMP tests.
However, Charles explained he was anxious about the need for a “certain specification to be met”.
It risks holidaymakers being turned away over confusion about the right tests.
“I’m concerned this is a recipe for chaos at the check-in desk,” he said. “You can imagine turning up with your test certificate which you think is acceptable, but which in turn turns out not to be because it doesn’t meet the specificity that the government are looking for.
“It’s a recipe for chaos I think and, as always with these rules, they’re not properly thought out.”
Charles added that he understood these new rules would come into force from Thursday -although this has not officially been confirmed.
He noted this likely wasn’t long enough for transport services to suitably prepare nor enough warning for overseas infrastructure.
It could lead to a number of Britons stranded on foreign soil unable to return home.
“There are a lot of countries overseas that don’t have anything like the medical resources that we see in the UK – they don’t have the test facilities, they don’t have the expertise to carry out these test,” Charles said.
“So if you’re abroad at the moment and you have to get one of these tests before you’re allowed back into the country, what are you supposed to do if the country you’re in cannot get your test in time or doesn’t have the right specificity?
“This is why you’re going to see Britons stuck abroad who are unable to meet these requirements.”
However, the expert said he hoped testing would go on to be factored into holiday packages to make matters easier for tourists.
“I think the onus will be on airlines and tour operators and developers to almost package up a test facility within the package you’re buying or within the airline ticket,” he said.
Nevertheless, he warned the complex travel rules could lead to further lack of confidence in the industry.
“There’s a hotchpotch of rules and restrictions, there’s no international coordination, different countries are doing different things, they’re not coordinating with each other, and it’s no surprise that holidaymakers are losing confidence in order to book,” said Charles.
Hopefully, he added, the strict testing will eventually mean travellers don’t have to quarantine at all.
“I think the government needs to take a step back and look at the layers which they’re adding to the travel sector at the moment and to us as consumers because it’s going to put off people from booking,” explained Charles.
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