Passengers arriving back in England today claimed their passenger locator forms were not checked after a change in the rules forced them to buy a PCR test.
Families’ testing bills have been sent soaring as people desperately search for rapid PCR swab providers after the new curbs came into force at 4am today.
The rule means all fully vaccinated travellers must return to taking costly PCR tests – which they today blasted as ‘too expensive’ – within two days of arriving in the UK.
The move, in response to the Omicron variant, comes only a month after PCR swabs were ditched in favour of cheaper rapid lateral flow tests for the double-jabbed.
Under the new rules, travellers must also self-isolate at home until receiving their results – with many trying to work out how to make this period as short as possible.
The quickest turnaround test provided at London Heathrow Airport is the ‘ExpressTest’ by Cignpost which costs from £69 for next-day results by 10pm.
But travellers have also been sharing tips with each other on a small number of providers offering a three-hour turnaround on a PCR – with one Harley Street clinic approved by Gov.UK offering one by a medical professional for a whopping £395.
Some also noticed three-hour tests are offered by Cignpost for £119 in the Heathrow departures area, but the firm told MailOnline these were not available for arrivals.
At Birmingham Airport today, multiple passengers claimed that their passenger locator forms which have details of their booked PCR test were not checked by immigration officials – an allegation MailOnline has put to the Home Office.
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘Our utmost priority is protecting the health of the public. Passenger Locator Forms have played an important role in enhancing our borders regime to help reduce the risk of new variants being transmitted.
‘Passenger Locator Forms are checked by Border Force through automated systems so people’s journeys are not disrupted. Passengers may only be aware that a form has been checked if it has been filled out incorrectly and they are alerted as a result.
‘Airlines are also required to check that passengers have completed the passenger locator form.’
One, Cheryl Wright, 67, who was returning from Dubai, said: ‘This bug is still here – if we have to have a swab in our mouths every so often and wear a mask then so be it.
Cheryl Wright (left), 67, who was returning from Dubai at Birmingham Airport today, said: ‘What I don’t like is that I spent an hour and a half filling in a passenger locator form, and they didn’t even check it – nobody has looked at anything.’ Justyna Nowskowska (right), 36, also arriving at Birmingham but from Poland, added: ‘My only concern is the price… too expensive’
Yasa Waseem (left), 44, a risk analyst returning from Dubai at Birmingham Airport, said: ‘On immigration control, they don’t even ask or look as to if you have booked your PCR test.’ And James MacPherson (right), 33, from Birmingham, said: ‘I now have to self isolate for two days. If I am honest it is utter b*****ks. I have had a test before I went to Dubai, a test while I am there, another now I am back’
‘Despite this, it does make you think would a short trip away be really worth it because of the paperwork.
Ms Wright, from Leicester, who is a retired practice manager in a GP surgery, added: ‘What I don’t like is that I spent an hour and a half filling in a passenger locator form, and they didn’t even check it – nobody has looked at anything.’
Another passenger arriving at Birmingham was Michelle Renee, 63, who is originally from the US but now lives in Leamington Spa. She did not need to follow the PCR rules because she had come in from Ireland
She continued: ‘I am travelling home in a taxi today, just me. It is the best thing to do. You are sectioned off from the taxi driver, there are open windows, etc.
‘I know some people have travelled by trains, I wouldn’t do that. Why mix with other people even though you should be self-isolating? Silly.’
Yasa Waseem, 44, a risk analyst also returning from Dubai, said: ‘I had to book mine before I departed – as well as all the forms to fill out. Now, I have to isolate until Thursday.
‘It annoys me. I have done loads of tests before I arrive back. I am going to a taxi back home. I want to minimise the people I come in to contact with.
‘The things is, we have filled out all these forms, done lateral flow tests, and when I arrived back in Birmingham today, they don’t even check.
‘On immigration control, they don’t even ask or look as to if you have booked your PCR test – I don’t know how they are going to monitor it.
‘Saying that, I do understand the concept behind it. But, if they are going to go forward with PCR and self-isolation, they need to monitor it properly.
People wait to check in for British Airways flights at London Heathrow Airport this morning
‘At the moment, you are booking, they are taking the money from you and no one is asking for proof. If I wanted, I could go anywhere now and presumably they wouldn’t know. ‘
What are the new test rules for UK arrivals?
From 4am today, fully-vaccinated people entering the UK are required to self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a PCR test taken on the second day after they arrive.
The tests must be bought from the private sector, with the current average cost of more than 450 providers at £83.
Previously fully-vaccinated travellers were only required to take a cheaper lateral flow test, and did not need to self-isolate unless they received a positive result.
People who are unvaccinated will continue to need one pre-departure test and two post-arrival PCR tests, and must quarantine for 10 days.
Ten African countries have been added to the UK’s red list since Friday.
Arrivals from those locations must stay in a quarantine hotel for ten days at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.
Meanwhile James MacPherson, 33, from Birmingham, who works in the video games industry, said: ‘I have travelled from Dubai. I have my PCR test booked in.
‘I am unvaccinated, so I have had to lots of lateral flow tests in Dubai before coming back to the UK. I found out that the PCR tests were coming back in while I was in Dubai – luckily, I had already booked it. It wasn’t an issue.
‘I now have to self isolate for two days. If I am honest it is utter b*****ks. I have had a test before I went to Dubai, a test while I am there, another now I am back.
‘I have had Covid, and, I feel, that natural immunity is better than having the vaccine. It is a waste of everybody’s time. They have brought these new guidelines in because of a new mild strain. I don’t understand why we’re having to go back through this again.
Justyna Nowskowska, 36, a housekeeper from Birmingham, added: ‘I have travelled from Poland. We have our PCR tests booked. The tests are at home.
‘I was in Poland when I found out the news, but we need to have these PCR tests back in for people arriving in the UK. A lot of people are still not wearing masks.
‘Even people on the planes were not wearing their masks. You can see why new strains happen. My only concern is the price: for a family it has cost me over £100 – too expensive.
‘My husband is going to pick me up, I have just been on a plane and if I’m honest I don’t want to be around other people. I am now going into self-isolation until I get a negative test. It doesn’t annoy me though. It is important.’
Another passenger arriving at Birmingham was Michelle Renee, 63, who is originally from San Francisco but now lives in Leamington Spa, but she did not need to follow the PCR rules because she had come in from Ireland.
Retired make-up artist Suzie Smith was returning to Heathrow today from a 10-day trip to Los Angeles where she was celebrating her 68th birthday with relatives. She had to return for an important hospital appointment scheduled for tomorrow. Ms Smith, from Holland Park, said: ‘It’s been a nightmare. I don’t know what’s going on about my hospital appointment. I’m exhausted after flying for 11 hours and now I’ve spent hours trying to sort it all out’
She said: ‘I have travelled from Dublin today. It was interesting hearing that the PCR tests had been brought back in.
‘I did not have to do a locator form or a PCR test, which was surprising. I was all ready to be a PCR test, I was prepared but then it looked like I didn’t have to in the end because I have travelled within the CTA (the common travel area) – that was hard to figure out though: am I meant to buy one, should I buy one?
‘I arrived early just in case I had to. I have a boyfriend here, and he is coming to pick me up. So, I am not going to on public transport – I still need to be cautious.’
Meanwhile travellers at Heathrow complained they faced extra costs and queues for PCR tests at the airport – followed by 48 hours in self isolation.
Briton Trevor Dean, 58, and his American wife Irene, 61, flew in for a five-day visit from their home in Florida – but will have to spend nearly half their break holed up in self isolation.
The couple returned to visit Mr Dean’s elderly mother at her home in Northampton but are now not certain they will be reunited.
Former Rolls Royce project manager Mr Dean said: ‘We’re now going to have to go into quarantine for two days. We carefully planned things to try and take everything into account but there was nothing we could do about this.
‘We booked into a hotel rather than staying with family so that if there were any issues we would not compromise anyone else. It has been annoying because of the timing of it. If we had booked it one day earlier we would have been OK.
‘We have had to cancel other arrangements. I was separated from my family for so long after Covid struck so we were keen to come back.’
Mrs Dean added: ‘He was supposed to go and see his mum but we may not be able to do that even though we are right down the road.’
Mr Dean said that the couple had also been hit in the pocket by the changes.
He added: ‘We had already paid for lateral flow tests and we had to change that to the PCR which has cost close to an extra £140.’
Meanwhile retired make-up artist Suzie Smith was returning from a 10-day trip to Los Angeles where she was celebrating her 68th birthday with relatives.
She had to return for an important hospital appointment scheduled for tomorrow.
Ms Smith, from Holland Park, west London, said: ‘It’s been a nightmare. I don’t know what’s going on about my hospital appointment.
‘I’m exhausted after flying for 11 hours and now I’ve spent hours trying to sort it all out.
‘I had a booking for a test at the airport at 1.30pm but they said it is now the wrong one and I’ve got to do it all over again and get another one.
‘You have to go online and re-book another test. I’m a pensioner. I can’t afford to pay out any more money. It has been so stressful. I just want to go home and sleep now.’
And an NHS nurse called Adriana told how she would miss frontline shifts because of the restrictions.
Briton Trevor Dean, 58, and his American wife Irene, 61, flew in to Heathrow today for a five-day visit from their home in Florida – but will have to spend nearly half their break holed up in self isolation
Adriana, 44, who works for an NHS Trust in London, was returning from visiting family in Germany.
She said: ‘I was meant to be going to work today but arriving back after 4am meant I could not go, so I have to stay away and wait for the results. Now I will have to self isolate for two days afterwards.
‘I found out about the changes when I was filling in forms for my return flight yesterday. Fortunately I was allowed to fly but I was not able to change the lateral flow tests I had already booked.
‘I was not able to change it to the PCR test. I emailed them and they said at the moment they could not do any changes and I would have to wait until they figured out what to do.
‘I’m sitting here now trying to book my test. It’s been very frustrating.’
Over at Liverpool John Lennon Airport today, passengers arriving back in England also spoke about their concerns relating to the new rules.
James McCabe, 62, who lives in Liverpool and works for Arriva, was arriving back from Alicante. He said: ‘I think it’s disgraceful, especially if you’ve been away.
Michael McCabe, 54, a prisons worker returning to Liverpool Airport from Alicante, said: ‘It wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t have to pay. I’ve had to pay £70 for two tests whilst we were on holiday, it’s silly as I get them free from work all the time.’ Mr McCabe is pictured (left) with his brother James (right)
‘We actually have to go into town now to go and pick up these tests. I think it’s bad that we can get the bus into town, even though we have to isolate as soon as we land.
‘I had to phone work yesterday to explain that I won’t be able to come into work until I’ve been given the all clear. I’m having to isolate for two days.
‘I was due to go back tomorrow. I hope I still get paid as I’m missing out on work.’
And Cindy Bewes, 62, who is retired, and was returning to Liverpool from Alicante today, said: ‘The rules began at 4am this morning, which is a bit daft.
‘We’d actually already paid for some different PCR tests for our return when we first booked the holiday.
‘But with the Omicron variant, we were actually been forced to buy new ones and haven’t been able to get our money back for the others.
‘We bought the new ones yesterday. So, we’ve forked out about £120 for PCR tests so far, it’s all about the money for some places.
Cindy Bewes, 62, who is retired, and was returning to Liverpool from Alicante today, said: ‘We’ve forked out about £120 for PCR tests so far, it’s all about the money for some places’
‘To us, it doesn’t matter, needs must really. We don’t mind isolating, what will be will be.
‘If we don’t do it, we’re going to end up with happened last time aren’t we? A cancelled Christmas and more lockdown.
‘The laws don’t go far enough to be honest. You can sit in a restaurant; you can sit in the pub it’s just ridiculous. One rule here and another one there.’
Michael McCabe, 54, a prisons worker also returning to Liverpool from Alicante, said: ‘It wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t have to pay.
‘I’ve had to pay £70 for two tests whilst we were on holiday, it’s silly as I get them free from work all the time.
‘If it was free, it’s not a problem, because you could have them in the house, do it, and just scan the barcode on your phone.
‘It’d be so much easier to do that. It’s ridiculous that we’re allowed to get on a bus full of passengers to go home.
‘I’ve got an interview for a promotion on Friday, and I’m quite stressed that I won’t be able to do it because I may still be isolating.
Adam Sinclair, 32, from South Shields, who works at Home Bargains, was returning to Liverpool from Stockholm today. He said: ‘I think the rules are fine, but if you want people to follow rules, why let a private company charge over £200 for a test? No one is going to follow the rules’
And Adam Sinclair, 32, from South Shields, who works at Home Bargains, was returning to Liverpool from Stockholm today.
He said: ‘I don’t really like it as whole; I think it’s a rip off. It’s quite ridiculous really.
‘I think the rules are fine, but if you want people to follow rules, why let a private company charge over £200 for a test? No one is going to follow the rules.
‘I’ve had to pay £30 for my test, which is annoying because if I’d got the flight I missed a few days ago, I wouldn’t have had to buy one at all.
‘I don’t need an instant result or test like some others do. For those that do, I think it’s daylight robbery and that it’s wrong.
‘I had to book the test when I was in Stockholm, two days ago, so hopefully it should be at home.
‘I’d be happy to conform to anything, but the price of these tests has really bugged me, I don’t see why anyone should have to pay for them.
‘It makes you wonder why they do that, how they let companies get away with that.
‘I think the government should subsidise these things and it should be free, especially if you’re coming back into your home country.
‘It’s odd that you can get one for free on a normal day, but it costs money when you go travelling. It’s just bizarre. ‘
Meanwhile Ola Ogun, 29, who is originally from Nigeria but was travelling from Vienna to Liverpool today, said: ‘Personally, I think the rules have been put in place for our safety. I think it’s OK.
Ola Ogun, 29, who is originally from Nigeria but was travelling from Vienna to Liverpool today, said: ‘The government could have gone about it a bit better, especially for those who were on holiday when the ruling came in’
‘There’s no way about isolating, we just have to do everything possible to be safe. I had to book a test whilst I was away, but those are the rules, you just have too. The price of them is huge, it’s expensive.
‘The government could have gone about it a bit better, especially for those who were on holiday when the ruling came in.’
The changes to the rules have raised fears of travellers being stuck in self-isolation if testing firms become overwhelmed by demand and results do not arrive on time.
There are also fears people could be unknowingly carrying Covid-19 even if they test negative upon their arrival, because the virus will not have had to time to incubate.
Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon has urged Boris Johnson to extend self-isolation rules for all UK arrivals from two to eight days – but the Prime Minister is unwilling to do this.
Quarantine hotels were also re-introduced on Sunday. It means anyone arriving from ten countries in southern Africa on the ‘red list’ must quarantine in hotel rooms for eleven nights on return at a cost of £2,285.
Health minister Edward Argar insisted Britons should not react by cancelling any foreign Christmas holidays, but accept a renewed ‘element of risk’ when travelling.
He said: ‘We’re not saying cancel your holidays to France or other countries, but we have put in place that proportionate testing and border control.
‘We cannot say what will happen there over the coming weeks, and in travelling at the moment with this virus, particularly with a new variant around, there is an element of risk.’
But the former chief of IAG, which owns British Airways, warned that tougher restrictions have been ‘completely ineffective in the past’.
Willie Walsh, who now runs industry body the International Air Transport Association, said: ‘I’m very disappointed to see this knee-jerk reaction by governments to the latest development.’
A busy Terminal Five at London Heathrow Airport this morning as passengers wait to check in
People wait in line for flights at Heathrow Airport this morning after the testing rules changed
Speaking to the BBC, he added: ‘It’s clear that these measures have been completely ineffective in the past but impose huge hardship on people who are trying to connect with families and friends, and clearly massive financial damage to the tourism and airline industry.’
He said the failure of similar measures to prevent a second Covid wave in the UK after being implemented in May 2020 showed they ‘do not have any long-term benefits’ and are ‘not the answer’.
In the Commons, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said ministers won’t keep the new measures in place ‘for a day longer than necessary’ if the Omicron variant turns out not to be as dangerous as feared.
They will be reviewed in three weeks when more is known about the mutant strain.
Calls grew yesterday to cap the cost of PCR tests, axe VAT on them or allow travellers to use free NHS ones to stop families being priced out of trips abroad this Christmas.
The average cost of a single swab among more than 450 providers listed on the Government website yesterday was £82.
For a family of five this would add £410 to the cost of a trip abroad. By comparison, rapid lateral flow tests are typically about £20 to £25.
Tory MP Henry Smith, chairman of the cross-party Future of Aviation Group of MPs, said: ‘It is essential the Government ensures that we avoid the profiteering that we have previously seen and that any rogue providers are prevented from exploiting those travelling over the next few weeks.
‘The Government must as a matter of urgency focus on the cost of testing and, as a minimum, consider removing VAT and explore options to bring the cost of testing down to a minimum or ideally free of charge.’
Former aviation minister Paul Maynard said: ‘Government must learn previous lessons on ensuring the market works fairly and prices are capped so families don’t face a hefty and unpleasant bill for tests.’
Huw Merriman, chair of the Commons transport committee, tackled Mr Javid over the issue in the Commons, calling for ‘accurate, good value testing’.
He said problems seen this summer with ‘rip off’ prices and travellers not receiving swabs or results on time – if at all – must be avoided.
Mr Javid replied: ‘We do want to minimise impact on our excellent transport and travel sector and he’s right to raise the importance of making sure PCR tests are available, the pricing is correct and that the Government website where they’re listed is properly monitored so if anyone breaks the rules they are de-listed.’
Source: Daily Mail UK