Covid test ‘nightmare’ for Canary Islands travellers at Christmas and New Year

Simon Calder
·2 min read
Medical check: Heathrow offers tests to departing passengers – but not of the PCR variety (Heathrow Airport/Collinson)
Medical check: Heathrow offers tests to departing passengers – but not of the PCR variety (Heathrow Airport/Collinson)

Families booked on Canary Islands holidays face having to pay hundreds of pounds for coronavirus tests – with Christmas visitors uncertain about getting the necessary documentation.

From 23 November, the Spanish health ministry has decreed that holidaymakers from the UK must arrive with proof of a negative result from a test taken in the previous 72 hours.

The only acceptable certificate is for a PCR test – the “gold standard” of testing, as used by the NHS. While Heathrow has a testing centre in both active terminals, with results within an hour, they are not acceptable to the Spanish authorities.

Tests must be sourced privately, which costs upwards of £125; clinics that offer a doctor-led approach and faster turnarounds can cost significantly more.

While residents of England and Wales are currently banned from holidays abroad, that rule is expected to be relaxed from 3 December. Tens of thousands of people have booked trips over Christmas and the New Year – when the series of public holidays make testing uncertain.

Sarah Partington, who was booked to travel to Lanzarote on 27 December, tweeted: “As nothing says Xmas like a Xmas Eve Covid test at £450 (three people) with no guarantee of results back on Boxing Day, have cancelled again.

“Anticipation of travel is as exciting as the travel itself. It's all gone.”

Another holidaymaker contacted The Independent to says she is due to fly to Tenerife on Boxing Day. “This would mean taking a test on evening of Thursday 23 December, with no hope of receiving results prior to going on holiday. It will surely be the same for anyone flying on 26, 27, 28 and 29 December.

“Are you aware of any possible changes to the rules regarding the Christmas period?”

The Independent has sought responses from the two leading tour operators, Tui and Jet2, and the Spanish tourist office in the UK.

Only Tui has so far responded. A spokesperson said: “We’re working closely with our supplier Randox on a solution and will update customers accordingly.”

At present the Canary Islands require arriving travellers staying in officially registered accommodation to get a simple and cheap antigen test. For most UK holidaymakers that is irrelevant since they are unable to travel. But from next Monday, the current requirement will be superseded by the Spanish government stipulation.

Holidaymakers who booked trips when no tests were required are not legally entitled to change or cancel for a refund.

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