Launch of pre-departure testing for airlines and passengers to be delayed until Monday amid fears of test chaos

Charles Hymas
·2-min read
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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.

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).

The first post-deadline flight departs from Singapore at 1.45pm on Thursday to arrive at Heathrow just before 5am on Friday which had left passengers on it anxious if they have not yet been tested or worried they might not have taken an approved one.

Now a Government source has told The Daily Telegraph that travellers and airlines will get a grace period over the weekend when they will not be fined for the wrong test, giving time for the guidance to bed in with the industry.

Under the legislation, anyone who arrives in the UK without a valid test faces an immediate £500 fine.

Airlines are also legally liable for ensuring that their passengers meet all the entry requirements to the UK - and could face fines of up to £2,000 per passenger by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) if they fail to abide by them.

Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel consultancy, The PC Agency, said: “There’s no way they should be fining people coming in on Friday morning if they have been unaware of the rules at this stage.

“There is no option but to have a period of leniency from Friday morning which makes a mockery of the whole policy.”

There were fears when the policy was announced that thousands of Britons could be stranded abroad. TUI was yesterday racing to get PCR tests sorted for 274 passengers due to fly back from Cuba on Saturday morning.