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Airlines call for antigen tests to be accepted for travel: Cheaper and faster than PCRs
27 November 2020 @ 19:21

AIRLINES and the European Commission are urging member States and third countries to accept antigen tests instead of PCRs for international arrivals, in a bid to save the tourist season over Christmas and allow families and friends to reunite.

Regional tourism authorities in the Canary and Balearic Islands – where the Covid-19 incidence is relatively low but the loss of holidaymakers is financially crippling at any time – have criticised the national government for its decision to request negative PCR tests for all air or sea passengers entering Spanish soil, even citizens of Spain.

Even though this requirement is a far more convenient alternative to an enforced 14-day quarantine – which may not be effective anyway, as a 'positive' person could still be asymptomatic after this time – it presupposes that a PCR is easy and affordable to obtain, that results will definitely come through in time, and that the personal data in the results communication are acceptable to international authorities.

Spaniards in Britain call for solutions for their family Christmas

Spaniards living in the UK have also complained, since the requirement may stop their returning to the family nest for Christmas – even more so than the obligation to quarantine for a fortnight when they get home to Britain afterwards.

As tests have to be taken within no more than 72 hours of the departing flight or ship, a traveller could be stranded if the results do not arrive in time – usually, they are sent to the person tested within just over 24 hours, but this is not guaranteed – and have to go through the process again.

Also, costs of tests vary by country: In Spain, a PCR at a private clinic costs around €95 to €150, and in the UK, they are given via high-street chemists' but cost around £250 (about €300).

One Spanish woman in Manchester who had a test via the UK's National Health Service said the results only show full name, date of birth and address, meaning they may not be accepted at a Spanish airport as they do not show her national ID number from her native country, or her passport number.

Tests are only free on State healthcare systems in both countries where a person either has symptoms consistent with Covid-19, or is known to have been in close contact with a 'positive'.

Antigen tests: Solution for those who need to 'prove they are negative'

Antigen tests are less used at present – they are thought to be suitable for mass testing in the event of an outbreak with a high number of contacts, and for those who just need to prove they are 'negative', but have not, so far, been recommended for anyone with symptoms, as they do not provide enough data to allow a person to be treated accurately.

For holiday travel and visiting family and friends abroad, though, they should be accepted, says the Spanish Airlines Association (ALA), hotel bosses and regional tourism ministries nationwide, and the country's pilots' union, SEPLA.

It would help restore freedom of movement within the EU if these were accepted, especially if testing standards were set across the board internationally, plus they are quicker, with results in 10 to 15 minutes.



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