Comment: The overseas travel testing regime is too much

Reality Training’s Bob Morrell says vaccinated individuals should have a better and freer choice

Like many, I had no plans to holiday abroad this year.

We kept hoping the rules would change, but the slow speed of restrictions being lifted, and bad experiences last year, put us off attempting to book. The confusion over testing and the associated cost put us off too.

As the summer went on, with the heavy rain we’ve had in the south, we all yearned for a break in the sun but resigned ourselves to having to wait a year.

Then, quite suddenly, the restrictions on travelling to France changed. My brother-in-law lives in the south, and we decided to drive down for a week in the sun and stay there.

As we weren’t paying for accommodation I thought the testing costs would balance that, and it wouldn’t be too stressful.

For a family of four to travel to France, when we went, we had to commit to:

– A non-NHS antigen test just before travelling.
– Filling in and uploading French forms and negative test certificates before travelling.
– Having proof of vaccination for my wife and me.
– Booking day 2 tests for all when returning, and day 5 early release tests for my sons, who are unvaccinated.
– Taking antigen tests in France 72 hours before coming home.
– Uploading those test certificates and UK Passenger locator forms before travelling.
– Testing all of us on day 2 after returning.
– Potentially day 5 release tests for my sons.

The combined costs of all the tests was more than £400. The administration alone was well over two hours of work.

I had to input our address details again and again, and if I made a mistake it took longer. Each test is a different set of information, a different set of actions and timescales.

All of this, is of course, dependent on negative tests. If one comes up positive, then everything changes. Your mind rationalises this and thinks, ‘well, if I have to isolate for 10 days in the south of France, what a shame?’

But what about the risk to others? What about the inconvenience? Who stays with the positive Covid son, and who travels home? What about the costs of changing bookings to cross the channel, etc.?

Travel agents selling £4,000 holidays are going to have to sell the testing too, of course, or be experts on how it works.

Difficult, with a constantly changing set of places and rules. To explain that the family needs to spend a few hundred more on testing is one thing, are you then going to sell parking, meals, transfers, event tickets, travel insurance, etc?

There needs to be some confidence building across the travel industry, or the confusion will add cost and admin to bookings at an already difficult time.

The other, more important, question is ‘how necessary is this?’

We were on Eurotunnel, in our own car, so surely the chances of us infecting others was pretty slim?

Do we need to be under the same rules as someone who shares a plane with 300 others?

Plus, they’re allowing festivals to go ahead where thousands are meeting in a field and yet, for the pleasure of driving in my own car to the south of France and back, I’m subjected to these quite draconian rules.

The system for business travellers has to change too, because I can’t fly to Munich to meet a client if I have to do all this.

‘You don’t need to’, some will say. ‘Use Zoom’. Well, business is hard enough these days – so the importance of face-to-face interaction – the social elements and the demonstration of commitment by bothering to show up, is more important than ever.

We’ve had travel consortia contact us recently to deliver event training, live, for the first time since the pandemic, and conference enquiries are coming in for motivational ‘build back’ sessions.

These all sound fantastic, but the current testing system makes the chance of these taking place abroad, or en masse, still pretty unlikely.

There needs to be a shift in perspective because this testing regime is just too much.

Surely, vaccinated individuals should have a better and freer choice about where they go to, what risks they take, and how they take and manage their own responsibility?

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