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Flight test chaos for Brits with contradictory Government advice about Covid swabs

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British travellers raged at baffling Government ‘guidance’ today about when pre-flight Covid tests must be taken – with contradictory statements about whether it is two days before or not more than 48 hours from take-off.

Passengers contacted MailOnline to demand clarification from officials – as queues grew at testing centres on the continent.

Differing Government publications say the test must be taken ‘no earlier than 48 hours before’, ‘in the two days before’ and even ‘two days before’ travel.

If a flight takes off at 8pm on a Friday, the different advice makes it unclear whether a test taken at 5pm on the Wednesday would be eligible for travel.

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.  

MailOnline contacted the Department for Health for clarity and was referred to a press release stating tests should be taken ‘no earlier than 48 hours before travelling’.

Meanwhile the Foreign Office told one confused traveller:  ‘Please follow the guidance regarding the pre-departure test as opposed to the press release.’

Government press officers told MailOnline they would seek further clarity ‘in the morning’.

That came too late for the tourists forced to spend precious hours of their holidays queuing for test. Centres in places Fuerteventura, and Tenerife have seen long lines of Brits waiting to secure eligible swabs before jetting home.  

Raging holidaymakers have been forced to queue for hours to get a lateral flow test before their flights back to the UK. Pictured, around 200 British holiday makers queuing for lateral flow tests in Tenerife this morning prior to flying back to UK

Raging holidaymakers have been forced to queue for hours to get a lateral flow test before their flights back to the UK. Pictured, around 200 British holiday makers queuing for lateral flow tests in Tenerife this morning prior to flying back to UK

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.  

The guidance for travellers before that 4am cut-off was more clear, reading: ‘Until 4am 7 December, you can take the test any time in the 3 days before the service on which you will arrive in England departs.

‘For example, if you travel directly to England on Friday, you could take a test any time on the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. The test result must be available for boarding.’

But there is no such clarity from today.

While one Government website page, titled Coronavirus testing before you travel to England, warns 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.’ 

Dozens of UK travellers queuing to get their Covid tests in Correljo, Fuerteventura. One holidaymaker said: 'Precious holiday time wasted, no compensation and totally unnecessary'

Dozens of UK travellers queuing to get their Covid tests in Correljo, Fuerteventura. One holidaymaker said: ‘Precious holiday time wasted, no compensation and totally 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.’ 

One confused passenger told MailOnline: ‘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.’

They added: ‘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.’

When MailOnline put the question to the Department for Health and Social Care a spokesman referred us to a previous press release, which read: ‘Given the reduced incubation period of the Omicron variant, passengers are advised to take the pre-departure test as close as possible to their scheduled departure to the UK and no earlier than 48 hours before travelling.’

When questioned on Twitter by worried holidaymakers, FCDO travel advice told Britons to ignore a Government press release that read 48 hours and still consider it to be two days.

When questioned on Twitter by worried holidaymakers, FCDO travel advice told Britons to ignore a Government press release that read 48 hours and still consider it to be two days

When questioned on Twitter by worried holidaymakers, FCDO travel advice told Britons to ignore a Government press release that read 48 hours and still consider it to be two days

Confused travellers turned to the FCDO Travel Advice, which could only point them to the Government website

Confused travellers turned to the FCDO Travel Advice, which could only point them to the Government website

One Government website page, titled Coronavirus testing before you travel to England, warns 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'

One Government website page, titled Coronavirus testing before you travel to England, warns 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’

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'

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’

It tweeted: ‘Please follow the guidance regarding the pre-departure test as opposed to the press release.’ 

A Twitter user with the handle Will D. Smith 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.’

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.

‘Whenever we see tightening of measures they are extra barriers which put off people from booking,’ he said.

‘Whether it is talk of quarantine or extra testing, these measures act as a barrier to people’s confidence.’ 

He said restrictions have ‘only been put in place because of the uncertainty over the variant itself’, adding: ‘That’s why we need a thorough conclusion urgently on this variant.’

England has no requirement for pre-departure tests, but all arrivals must take a PCR test on or before day two and quarantine at home until receiving a negative result.

A leaked paper from the Government’s SAGE advisors this week said pre-departure tests would be ‘valuable’.    



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