Having been ripped off by one of the day 2 and day 8 testing kit suppliers listed on the Government website, I decided, with the help of some colleagues to put the entire system to the test and see what really is going on and if people are playing the system or circumventing it, and sure enough I found people are playing the system and are up to mischief and not just the rip of firms that the Government have listed to supply those testing kits.
Step One – Pre Flight Covid Test
I will give you below an overview from the inward bound leg of a journey, that being from Spain to the UK.
When in that current Amber list country you are faced with having to get a Covid test at some point from three days before the start of your journey back to the UK.
This is when it can get confusing for people, for they need to find somewhere and someone to give them a test and need to know which test to take. A Lateral Flow test is the cheapest option and plenty of places are offering those tests in Spain, many Pharmacists are offering them, and you can pay from €50 upwards for them and get the results in around 20 to 30 minutes.
You will then be given a simple document with your details on it along with the result of the test and the type of test taken which will be stamped and signed by the person who tested you.
That is where it gets somewhat shady for, my colleague was offered a completed document, stamped, signed, negative result with their details added for €10 in a local bar, without having to take a test, that is of course going to be a tempting proposition for a large family or large group of friends wanting to save some cash.
Now, you may expect that there is a high tech system in place for verifying your test result document is real once you arrive at the airport, well that is certainly not the case, let me explain.
Once armed with your negative test, you then need to book a day 2 and day 8 test kit and pay for it and then can fill in the passenger locator form on the Government website. Then you are good to go. Be aware on the passenger locator form you have to give the seat number from your boarding pass for your flight, so that needs to be booked before filling in that form, but more on that later.
My colleague was checking in a bag for their flight, and whilst in the queue at the check in desk a member of airline staff was wandering up and down the queue asking to see the negative test result document, she glanced at it, literally glanced at it for a second or two, smiled and said that is fine, then presented my colleague with the following scrap of paper and told them if asked by anyone air-side have they had their negative test document verified they simply need to flash that scrap of paper.
I have edited out two hand-written pieces of information on that scrap of paper for obvious reasons, however one of them was the flight number scrawled on it by the airline employee who glanced at the negative test document. Some of them my colleague reported were stamped with a Ryanair stamp, some faintly.
However, at this point armed with one of those scraps of paper you will not need to show the pre flight Covid test document again apparently, so anyone forging that scrap of paper could get on the plane, and if it was forged for example they would not even have to have had a Covid test.
For those who are not checking in any luggage into the hold, you will be asked, when at the departure gate before the gate opens by another member of staff who wanders around, whether you have your scrap of paper or he or she will ask to see your negative Covid test document if you have not been a scrap of paper yet, which you will only have done prior if you had checked in a bag.
When the gate opens you will then be asked for that scrap of paper and as normal your passport and boarding pass and will then be allowed to board the plane, as for the scraps of paper they are thrown to one side after presenting them to the gate staff.
So, just to confirm there is no real and reliable system in place at the airport for verifying your pre-flight Covid test documentation is real, so a “dodgy” one will get you past the not so hi tech system in place, that being the airline staff giving it a two second glance in the check in luggage queue or when you are hanging around the boarding gate.
Step Two Day 2 and Day 8 Testing Kit
You can test this bit out yourself, head on over to the Government website and look at the list of day 2 and day 8 testing kit suppliers:
You will see hundreds of them listed there, along with their prices displayed, however be aware the lowest prices quoted are rarely for the day 2 and 8 test kits, they are for other kits, so that is a bit dodgy, getting people to click on the links and visit a website not offering the right kit under the illusion they are the cheapest.
You have to order and pay for the day 2 and 8 testing kit before filling in the passenger location form and enter the order number you are given on your receipt emailed over to you once you have done so, or the one displayed on the screen when you have paid for those kits.
For reference you can write any number on that passenger location form, including a made up one for in my colleague’s experience no one checked that form whatsoever, bar a two second glance by the airline staff member in the queue for the checked in luggage desk.
Whether someone does check the form when submitted online, possibly they will do, but no feedback on that yet. However, the day 2 and 8 day testing kit I previously ordered for friends which never arrived on a previous journey made is why I decided to put out this information to warn others you could be ripped off with very little help available if you are, and for that the Government need to be shamed.
For reference, those testing kits never came and as such my friends were sat in quarantine waiting for testing kits that never came, they contacted the Government Covid helpline and were told the fall back position if the kits do not arrive on time or do not arrive at all (and many people are reporting that) is to stay in quarantine for 14 days and then you can go free, without taking a test.
Be aware that information came directly from the Covid helpline staff and having spoken to someone who works for that helpline they say they are given new guidance almost daily and are overwhelmed with people reporting the kits have not arrived.
Step Three Passenger Locator Form
As for whether there are any checks on the passenger location form at the airport when you arrive back in the UK, well there are signs up on the walls as you are walking to the Border Control desks, saying “random checks” will be performed, but my colleague reported no one on their flight was asked to present that document.
Optional Day 5 Test
Once you have paid for the day two and day 8 tests, you are then allowed, if you have plenty of cash, to order a five day testing kit and by doing so that allows you to come out of quarantine after five days, but you are still required to take the eight day test you ordered.
Not sure how our gormless Government expects those ripped off by their website listed testing kit suppliers to take a day 8 test after being allowed out of quarantine on day five if that test never arrives, and as I say for some people ordering them, they never arrive.
The madness of all of the above is that currently very few people are flying into and out of the country anyway, so if the current system cannot handle that number of holiday makers or visitors to the country one must wonder how robust that system will be when Freedom Day arrives, and people are allowed to travel more freely.
When you are sat in quarantine there is the chance you will be contacted by someone tasked with checking on you by text message, phone call or even a knock at the door.
As for most people all they get is a silent phone call from whoever the Government has tasked with checking people are in quarantine and not out partying, working or just getting on with their day to day life (remember those good old days?).
To conclude, the system as it stands is broken and open to massive abuse.
I am not telling you to play the system and certainly not telling you to do anything illegal, obviously, you must follow the rules, but having seen how easy it is to get into the country without real documentation in place and the lax system in place for verifying for example the pre-flight Covid test, you can bet your bottom Dollar people will be playing the system and not following the rules to save a lot of money on their holidays.