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‘Fit to fly’ Covid tests not valid for major holiday destinations

One test recommended by British Airways isn’t accepted by Greece, Italy or Portugal

Helen Coffey
Wednesday 10 March 2021 11:25 GMT
Salvia tests aren’t accepted by every country
Salvia tests aren’t accepted by every country (REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez)

Some ‘Fit to Fly’ Covid-19 tests are not valid for major holiday destinations, according to an investigation by Which?.

The consumer champion found that one of the four test providers recommended on the British Airways website, Halo Verify, provides a PCR saliva test rather than a swab test.

Looking at 10 destinations’ requirements, Which? found that three stipulate tests must be carried out using a swab; Australia, meanwhile, does not accept self-administered saliva tests where collection has been done at home.

Portugal, Italy and Greece all clearly state that only a swab test is permitted. Australia says that PCR saliva tests are accepted – but only if supervised by a medical professional.

All the other countries looked at by Which? were ambiguous as to whether PCR saliva tests would be acceptable, barring Canada, which was the only destination to state that these tests are valid for entry.

A BA spokesperson said: “We are pleased to be able to offer our customers a broad range of discounted options across multiple providers, including PCR, LAMP and Antigen tests.

“The saliva PCR test is accepted by the vast majority of countries that we fly to, and also meets the standards required for UK test and release and UK pre-departure testing. We follow the guidance from international authorities and always advise customers to ensure they meet the entry requirements for the country they’re flying to.”

It’s easy to be stung by the rules if you don’t read the fine print.

In December, The Independent’s own travel editor, Cathy Adams, booked hotel chain Sofitel’s “Test and Rest” package, which includes an overnight stay at Heathrow airport and a PCR test the night before, with results delivered straight to travellers’ phones in time for their flight the next day.

However, the package also uses Halo Verify, which is a self-administered saliva test – whereas Dubai, her destination, requires a swab test.

“Halo’s endeavour is to provide accurate, convenient and cost effective SARS-CoV-2 testing that allows both businesses and people to move forward with their lives in a simple and safe way,” a Halo spokesperson told Which?.

“Adapting to the constantly evolving environment of SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic testing, Halo has worked in partnership with the UK government and relevant regulatory bodies to ensure it is offering an approved, affordable and almost 100 per cent accurate test for those who require it.

“As governments’ guidelines both in the UK and overseas constantly evolve and alter, Halo will continue to be at the forefront of the world’s technology and testing offering and will ensure it maintains a quality service for its customers.”

When choosing a test for travel, the most important thing is to first check the country’s entry requirements through the Foreign Office website. If it stipulates a certain kind of PCR test – for example, nasal swab – ensure you are buying or booking the correct test type.

If the wording is ambiguous, it’s probably worth stumping up slightly more money for a swab, rather than a saliva test, as these are the most widely accepted.

All leisure travel is currently banned in the UK; international holidays will be permitted in England from 17 May at the earliest.

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