UK’s ‘check to launch’ Covid scheme for travellers will get off to chaotic begin | Journey
The long-awaited test for clearance by the UK government to enable travelers to cut the quarantine was in on the first day of operation after the release of eleven private providers at the last minute, most of which appeared to be unable to offer the service Chaos tangled up Tuesday morning.
Airports, many of which have had test centers for weeks or months, were at a loss about being removed from the Department of Transport’s approved list as they reported an increase in bookings ahead of the Christmas season.
Meanwhile, approved vendors advised travelers that tests should be published and that results should be presented within 48 hours of receipt. This would likely cut the self-isolation period from 10 days to eight days, rather than the five days the program promised.
The DfT was believed to be trying to speed up Tuesday’s approval of airport test centers to address the lack of availability.
An airport source said: “The rapid test has not yet been approved, but it would reduce self-isolation to five days – that’s what we were hoping for from today. Unfortunately, the government hasn’t even managed to get a list that could do it in eight days. Given the small number of passengers traveling now, you have to question procurement. “
Among the 11 companies that were released the night before the program at 7:11 p.m., SameDay Doctor said it was overwhelmed and could no longer take bookings or reply to emails. Another, Halo Verify, said the test kits were out of stock. Some other vendors’ websites appeared to have crashed on Tuesday.
The test-to-release program was first announced by Secretary of Transportation Grant Shapps in October, when a task force was set up to address concerns in the travel industry and attempt to reduce the then 14-day quarantine period.
Michael Smith, a British national residing in the Netherlands, came to England via Eurotunnel on Monday after testing negative two days earlier in hopes of using the new regime to visit his mother with dementia.
Instead, he waited to find out the identity of the approved providers – and then couldn’t book a test after contacting them all.
“It looks like a fiasco,” said Smith. “I’m stuck in a Travelodge near London. I thought five days and I’ll be out. But most of these vendors are not ready yet and all by post – it will be almost 10 days anyway. “
He said he was angry with the government for announcing a program that was “just hot air”.
Heathrow said its test providers were working closely with the DfT to ensure they were given government approval at the earliest possible opportunity.
A spokesman for MAG, which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports, said the delays in its test centers were frustrating and said it had “a provider with global expertise and the ability to offer travelers the widest possible range of tests”.
He said the operator Collinson had provided the government with all the necessary information and had been offering tests for passengers since the beginning of the month to meet entry requirements of countries around the world. He added: “We have been assured that the matter will be resolved immediately.”
Gatwick Airport hoped its own test center would be approved within days – and said the new system had apparently given passengers more confidence in flying, with a spate of additional bookings for Christmas – including Tenerife, in the Canary Islands recently removed from the list of exempted countries from government travel corridors.
Up to 200 flights per day are forecast at the airport in December – 30% of the pre-Covid level, but far more than in recent months.
A government spokesman said:
“We’ve worked closely with the private sector to run tests through to approval. This is a step in the right direction for passengers and industry.
“We have set high standards for all providers involved to ensure that Covid-19 is not imported into the UK at such a critical time. The list of approved vendors is constantly being updated and today several larger companies are being added to make up any backlog. “