Leading British healthcare company Salutaris People has warned of the potential chaos that could unfold from next week when the government is expected to formally lift the ban on ‘illegal travel’ on 17 May. The company, based in Tyneside and Cheshire, warned of passenger chaos and confusion over Covid testing protocols to ‘green list’ destination countries.
The company has also blasted the transport minister, Grant Shapps, and the government for its shambolic communication of the traffic light system for travel and its ‘green list’ of 12 designated countries. It said that the transport minister and the government had failed to communicate testing and vaccination protocols for entry into the 12 designated countries, which were open to receiving passengers from the UK. It said this was going to leave airline passengers in complete confusion and disarray over which Covid tests they are expected to have for entry into their destination country and whether the country will even accept inbound travel and receive them.
Ross Tomkins, MD of Salutaris People, said: ‘The government communication around the “green list” and traffic light system has only dealt with the quarantine restrictions for re-entry back into the UK. It has not communicated clearly and effectively what the entry and testing requirements are in designated countries. This in itself has created utter confusion for the public and airline passengers wanting to book holidays to those destinations. Many airline passengers will be thinking they don’t need to be tested – confusing re-entry protocols to the UK – when in actual fact the destination country will have its own entry criteria for testing and vaccination. Some passengers may also confuse the existing NHS testing as a secure test result to be fit-to-fly. Many of the countries on the list are not accepting airline passengers into their country at the moment.’
With the announcement of the 12-country ‘green list’ there has been a huge surge of flight bookings with airlines in anticipation of the travel restriction and ban being lifted on 17 May. Extra flights have been put on by airlines and regional airports, including Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Leeds Bradford to Portugal, for next week, despite the fact that passengers from the UK are not permitted entry into Portugal at the moment.
Ben Paglia, MD of AKEA Life, the clinical testing partner to Salutaris People, said: ‘The reality is that while you can book a flight and fly to a country, when you get there you won’t be let in. Many of the airlines have passengers booked onto flights for Portugal next week, but when you arrive you won’t be allowed entry into the destination country due to complex rules on entry and stringent restrictions on testing and vaccination. At the moment, Portugal is closed to UK passengers in accordance with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office guidance. There is the very real danger that passengers could fly to Portugal and not be allowed to disembark from the plane and be returned to their home destination.
‘We also expect to see a lot of passengers who will be frantically rushing to get last-minute rapid PCR tests before flying – to the few countries that will accept airline passengers. When they also realise the destination country test requirements, there are also going to be a lot of very disappointed passengers, furious not only with the escalating costs but with the lack of clear communication to destination countries from Grant Shapps and the government.’
Salutaris People is the clinical lead partner in one of the UK’s first rapid PCR test facilities at a UK airport. The healthcare company is working in partnership with the Test Assurance Group (TAG) and Liverpool John Lennon Airport to offer rapid on-site PCR tests. The express testing suite – which has its own on-site laboratory at the airport – provides clients with a rapid PCR test and certificate in 1–3 hours under fit-to-fly. It also provides other testing services including test-to-release and is expected to announce shortly that it will also be able to offer 2-day and 8-day testing. It is one of the only airports in the UK able to do this, compared to the normal 48-hour turnaround for PCR tests.
Ross Tomkins added: ‘While Australia is on the list issued by the government, the reality is that Australia has locked its doors until 2022 for tourists. The same can be said of Israel and many other countries that are not allowing airline passengers from the UK. In real terms, we have had an announcement of 12 countries we can return from and a traffic light system, but no clear guidance on which countries will accept airline passengers and what their entry requirements are. It would have been far more sensible and logical for the transport minister and the government to have announced which countries will accept airline passengers and what the entry requirements to those countries are in respect of test types and vaccination.’
Ben Paglia also added: ‘There is also a great deal of complexity to the traffic light system. This is where many of the major airlines will come unstuck. Tui, for example, have announced their “green” and “amber” packages and associated low budget costs including PCR home testing kits to a big fanfare last week. But you simply cannot properly set the parameters of any “green” or “amber” travel package until you know what the destination country parameters and protocols are and have been set. They also have the issue of potential disruption to the postal PCR test kits being sent out as both laboratories and the postal service struggle to cope with demand.
‘These protocols will also change on a regular basis as new variants of the disease emerge, which will impact each country and travel restrictions. The South Africa, Brazil, and Indian variants have all surfaced in the UK, posing a serious threat to a third wave. Despite lockdown easing and the success of the vaccination programme, the virus is still very much with us in our communities.
‘We have had a number of AKEA Life and Salutaris People clients booking holidays for countries that were on the government “green list” but have since realised that the country in question is not accepting passengers and have had to re-book their holidays.’
As the majority of airlines are pushing towards postal delivery of self-administered PCR test kits, Salutaris People also warned that we could see more Covid testing chaos with delays on postal test kits. The stark warning comes as the pent-up demand for air travel continues and there are genuine concerns of a repeat of last December’s postal test chaos. There were huge delays in the delivery of home-based PCR test kits by the postal service, which all of the airlines are now relying on. The delays left airline passengers with test results being delivered late; ‘unclear’ test results, meaning passengers had to take secondary testing; tests going missing; and, in some cases, passengers missing flights altogether.
The healthcare company is on the UK government’s approved list of COVID-19 test providers. Salutaris People will have five clinics operating by the end of this month, including Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Wilmslow in Cheshire, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Stockton-On-Tees, and Sunderlan
Akea Life, the clinical partner to Salutaris People, is a CQC-registered, 5-star private GP medical business, providing the UK’s first fully private concierge medical service of private doctors, healthcare professionals, and nurses. The practice also retains a COVID-19 consultant virologist to advise on all matters related to COVID-19. The company also has a consultant virologist – Dr Brendan Payne, who is an honorary consultant physician in infectious diseases at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle Upon Tyne. Dr Payne holds CCTs in both infectious diseases and virology, and he works jointly across both departments at the Newcastle Hospitals.
Salutaris People, in conjunction with its healthcare and clinical partners, Akea Life, Therapy Direct, and Normedica, are also offering a unique COVID-19 concierge service to clients by bringing private Covid PCR testing to their location. A trained healthcare professional will come to a private residence, hotel, or location and administer PCR tests. The tests are then couriered back to the mobile laboratory facilities, providing express PCR results within one to three hours. The company also plans to offer this service across the UK in other key locations and airports.
For more information on Salutaris People and to book a test, please visit their website.