Travel: Simon Calder discusses taking PCR tests
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Spain, France, Greece and Portugal have all seen an uptick in UK visitors since amber list travel rules relaxed somewhat for fully vaccinated people. Now, those who can prove they have received both doses of a vaccine approved and administered in the UK, European Union (EU) or the US, can travel from any amber list country to the UK without quarantine.
Of course, there are still pre- and post-departure tests when returning to the UK.
However, it isn’t just UK travel rules which holidaymakers will need to grapple with.
They must also follow the rules and restrictions put in place by officials in their destination country.
In a bid to help Britons understand these often rapidly changing rules, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has updated its travel advice pages for Spain, France, Greece and Portugal in recent weeks.
UK arrivals are permitted to enter Spain as long as they meet specific requirements.
The FCDO states: “The Spanish government requires all arrivals to Spain from the UK to present on entry a pre-travel declaration form and one of the following: a negative COVID-19 test; or proof of vaccination.”
Spain will accept the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination record, however, the FCDO warns that NHS appointment cards are not classed as official evidence of inoculation.
Those travelling to the Canary or Balearic Islands may be required to present a negative COVID test if flying they are entering from mainland Spain.
“In some parts of Spain, regardless of your country of origin, tourist accommodation providers may require you to present evidence either of a negative test, of being fully vaccinated or of having had and recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months,” adds the FCDO.
“This currently applies in the Canary Islands.”
Should travellers contract Covid while in Spain, they will be required to undertake a period of quarantine.ente
“If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there,” warns the FCDO.
“Plan ahead and make sure you can access money, understand what your insurance will cover and can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned.”
Regional restrictions can be “introduced at short notice”, therefore Britons are advised to stay up-to-date with the local authorities in their destination.
“The use of face coverings continues to be mandatory for anyone over the age of six years old on all forms of public transport in Spain, in any enclosed space open to the public, and outdoors where social distancing of 1.5 metres cannot be observed,” adds the FCDO.
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Currently, only fully vaccinated UK arrivals are permitted to enter France for leisure purposes.
Those who are not fully vaccinated are only permitted to enter the country for essential reasons.
Unvaccinated travellers must also present a negative Cold test taken within 24 hours of departure, complete an International Travel Certificate and complete a “sworn statement” form self-certifying they are not suffering from symptoms of the virus.
“Travellers who are not fully vaccinated will need to self-isolate for seven days after arrival, then take another PCR test following this period of self-isolation,” states the FCDO.
France will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record at the border.
In its most recent update, the FCDO outlined some further details of France’s vaccine requirements.
“The French Government recognises the following vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson (the vaccines recognised by the European Medical Agency),” explains the FCDO.
“Fully vaccinated” is defined by the completion of a vaccination schedule, specifically one week after the second dose of Pfizer, Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca, four weeks after the single and only dose of Johnson & Johnson, or one week after the single dose of any of the above vaccines if you have previously tested positive for COVID-19.”
From July 7, PCR and rapid antigen tests will no longer be free for international travellers visiting France.
The cost of these tests will be €49 for PCR tests and €29 for rapid antigen tests.
The FCDO also warns visitors of the use of the “Pass Sanitaire”, which acts as a form of Covid pass.
“From August 9, you will need this to access a range of services and venues including leisure facilities (bars, restaurants, museums, cinemas), hospitals, retirement homes and modes of transport such as long-distance train and bus journeys and planes,” explains the FCDO.
“Those aged 12 to 17 will only be subject to this requirement from September 3.”
Greece is allowing UK travellers to enter as long as they meet certain requirements.
Passengers travelling from the UK will need to complete a Passenger Locator Form, and provide proof of full vaccination at least 14 days before travel, or a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours before travelling.
The Greek authorities will also accept proof of a negative rapid antigen test from an authorised laboratory, taken within the 48 hours before departure.
While Britons are still welcome in Greece, there are coronavirus restrictions still in place, with partial lockdowns in some regions.
In its most recent update, the FCDO advised Britons of new rules on certain islands.
“A partial lockdown is in force in Chania (Crete) and on the island of Zakynthos (Zante) until at least August 13,” states the FCDO.
“Restrictions include a curfew between 1am and 6am, and a ban on playing music at entertainment venues.”
Britons are advised to “follow the advice of local authorities” and stay up-to-date with the latest local rules, as these can change rapidly.
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Portugal is allowing UK arrivals to enter, however, they must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test to travel to or through the country.
Authorities are accepting PCR tests taken within 72 hours of travel or an antigen test that meets EU standards, taken within 48 hours of travel.
The FCDO advised Britons they “should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate travel.”
However, quarantine restrictions remain in place for unvaccinated arrivals, regardless of their COVID-19 test results.
“If you have travelled from the UK to mainland Portugal, you must quarantine for 14 days in the place you are staying or at a place indicated by the Portuguese health authority, unless you can show you have been fully vaccinated with an EU approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to travel,” states the FCDO.
Holidaymakers will be subject to health screening on arrival.
“If you test positive for COVID-19, you will have to self-isolate for 10 days,” adds the FCDO.
“If you continue to test positive, you may not be able to get a fitness-to-fly certificate.”
Those visiting Portugal are advised to do so with access to enough money and a good insurance package in case they do test positive while abroad.
A number of coronavirus restrictions remain in place, with Covid vaccine certificates or negative test results needed to access certain services and activities. This includes the use of indoor restaurants, gyms and spas, and when checking into hotels.
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