THIS is the paperwork needed for a family of 3 to have an amber-list holiday


Fit to fly certificates. Check. NHS double-jab certificates. Check. Passports. Check. Car hire forms. Check. Boarding passes. Check.

But there’s something else… oh yes, the pre-UK-arrival antigen tests for generating the return fit to fly certificates.

There was a headache-inducing amount of paperwork involved for my recent trip to amber-listed France and Spain with my partner and four-year-old daughter – but it was worth it.

The headache-inducing amount of paperwork involved for MailOnline Travel Editor Ted’s recent trip to amber-listed France and Spain

THE RULES FOR RED, AMBER AND GREEN-LISTED COUNTRIES 

RED

Before travel to England you must:

  • take a Covid-19 test – children aged 10 and under do not need to take this test
  • book a quarantine hotel package, including 2 Covid-19 tests
  • complete a passenger locator form

On arrival in England you must:

  • quarantine in a managed hotel, including two Covid-19 tests

AMBER

Before you travel to England you must:

  • take a Covid-19 test – you must take the test in the three days before you travel to England
  • book and pay for Covid-19 tests – to be taken after arrival in England
  • complete a passenger locator form

You must do these things whether you are fully vaccinated or not.

On arrival in England

If you are fully vaccinated

After arrival in England, you must take a Covid-19 test on or before day two.

This applies if you’re fully vaccinated under either:

  • the UK vaccination programme
  • the UK vaccine programme overseas
  • an approved vaccination programme in Europe or the USA – not all are recognised in England

It also applies if you are:

  • taking part in an approved Covid-19 vaccine trial in the UK or the USA
  • under 18 and resident in the UK, a UK Overseas Territory, the USA or one of the specified European countries

If you are not fully vaccinated

If you do not qualify under the fully vaccinated rules, on arrival in England you must:

  • quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days
  • take a Covid-19 test on or before day two and on or after day eight

If you are in England for less than 10 days, you need to quarantine for the time you are here. You need to book day two and day eight travel tests. You only need to take the tests if you are still in England.

GREEN

Before you travel to England you must:

  • take a Covid-19 test – children aged 10 and under do not need to take this test
  • book and pay for a day 2 Covid-19test – to be taken after arrival in England
  • complete a passenger locator form

On arrival in England

You must take a Covid-19 test on or before day two after you arrive.

Children aged four and under do not need to take this test.

You do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive.

You must quarantine if NHS Test & Trace informs you that you travelled to England with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

If you have been in a country or territory on the red or amber list

If you have also been in or through a country or territory on the red list in the 10 days before you arrive in England, you must follow the red list rules.

If you have also been in or through a country or territory on the amber list in the 10 days before you arrive in England, and have not visited a country on the red list, you must follow the amber list rules.

Source: FCDO. Used under the Open Government Licence

It was worth it to soar in a jet plane once more above turquoise waters, epic mountains and mesmerising white fluffy clouds, to sip rose on sunbaked terraces with the glistening Med in the background and discover hidden coves teeming with fish.

But first, there were the administrative Covid hoops to jump through.

France was our first port of call and to get in – note, at the time – we needed double-jab certificates and a negative PCR or antigen test result and a ‘fit to fly’ certificate.

The former involved logging onto the NHS app, downloading the certificate and printing it out. The app took security very seriously and scanned my face to match it with my passport photo. This took several attempts.

For the Covid test, we decided to go for the gold-standard PCR (just in case the rules suddenly changed and for extra peace of mind) and turned to The Regenerative Clinic to process it all.

It has its own laboratory on London’s Harley Street, so it doesn’t need to rely on third-party analysis.

The negative results and certificates arrived the day before our flight.

For the return pre-arrival antigen test we used Qured, which has a clear and easy-to-use website and reasonable prices.

They posted two tests for us to pack that we would then self-administer on a video call with a health professional before flying home.

The final piece of the paperwork jigsaw was the health declaration form demanded by the French authorities, which asked us to confirm that we weren’t ill and hadn’t been in contact with anyone who had been.

Top tip: EasyJet has a great Covid-19 hub on its website that includes an interactive map. Just click on a country and the entry requirements pop up. 

We flew with the airline from Gatwick (my first flight since November 2019) and the experience was very smooth.

An agent from the airline thoroughly examined our fit to fly certificates before we checked in our bags and before too long, we were soaring on a half-empty plane to Marseille.

Where it was apparently 2018.

The border agent pushed all our Covid paperwork to one side and said ‘just the passports’.

We took the ferry from Toulon to Mallorca after a few days and bio-security was similarly patchy.

A health declaration control form by the Spanish government had been demanded, but mine wasn’t checked as I boarded, though my double-jab certificate was. We had to present that or a negative antigen or PCR test.

The day before we were due to fly back with easyJet from Palma we logged on to Qured for our video-call antigen test, which was straightforward enough. Insert swab, add to solution, drip onto slide, take a picture of the marker together with ID and email to Qured within 30 minutes.

Our fit to fly certificates were emailed that day and the following day, after spending breakfast filling out our passenger locator forms, we found ourselves at the airport in a gargantuan queue that nearly stretched out of the terminal.

An easyJet agent studied our double jab certificates very carefully, but didn’t ask to see our fit to fly certificates.

The flight was half empty and the views of Mallorca upon take-off magnificent.

It was a good flight, in an A321 neo, with chirpy service. Then frustration and tedium enveloped us at Gatwick.

We stood in a queue at border control for 90 minutes, among extremely frustrated families. At one point our line was being funnelled past a solitary border control agent, though not for the duration, other checkpoints were opened.

One mother had her baby on a blanket and was gently pulling it along the floor. And one passenger started a group chant of ‘we want a third runway at Heathrow’.

When we were eventually called forward my passenger locator form was analysed, together with my passport.

Then through we went. At no point on the journey had my fit to fly certificate been checked, a task that falls to the carrier, I’m told.

The wait at border control, which I later learned was exacerbated by E-gate problems, meant that by the time we reached baggage reclaim the carousel for our flight had switched to another flight.

Is all the amber paperwork worth it? With views like this, yes, says Ted. He snapped this picture as his easyJet flight soared over Mallorca on its way to Gatwick. In the bottom left of the picture is Magaluf. The capital, Palma, can be seen at the top

Is all the amber paperwork worth it? With views like this, yes, says Ted. He snapped this picture as his easyJet flight soared over Mallorca on its way to Gatwick. In the bottom left of the picture is Magaluf. The capital, Palma, can be seen at the top

We found our suitcase and hold-all in the middle of the floor.

A passenger who went through Gatwick border control at the same time as us described the experience as ‘hell’.

Gatwick Airport said: ‘We are sorry you had this experience as we know the current requirements from Government are incurring more time for admin checks by UK Border Force.

‘We are continuing to work with UK Border Force regarding queues at passport control to ensure that best use is made of E-gates where possible and we are hopeful they will be able to support with additional staff as passenger numbers increase.

‘In the instance of Sunday [when we landed], there were longer queues due to an issue with UKBF’s systems and E-gates that the GAL/UKBF teams responded to, and it’s an area we’re focused on supporting where we can.

Ted after disembarking his easyJet flight to Marseille from Gatwick in July. It was his first flight since November 2019

Ted after disembarking his easyJet flight to Marseille from Gatwick in July. It was his first flight since November 2019

The idyllic Cala Pi cove to the south-east of Palma

The idyllic Cala Pi cove to the south-east of Palma

‘We don’t want queues of this nature to become the norm and we are looking at mitigation measures to make them more bearable if they appear unavoidable due to delays at the border.

‘These include handing out bottled water, kids’ activity packs, holding people’s place in the queue to allow them to go to the toilet, and ensuring there is strong, free Wi-Fi all along the route.’

The airport spokesperson added: ‘With regards to your baggage, I am very sorry to hear this and this is not the level of service we wish to provide our passengers.’

When I relayed my experience to the Home Office, the response was colder, with no apology for the queue.

A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The pandemic is not over. We’ve said throughout that people should expect delays, whilst we conduct additional checks to protect the vaccine roll-out. We will not apologise for doing whatever is necessary to keep our country safe.’

The spokesperson then claimed there was no queue anyway. 

Turning to the ‘fake news’ playbook, they added: ‘MailOnline’s claims regarding the number of Border Force staff working at Gatwick and queues are false.

‘Border Force works hard to ensure it has the right level of resources to check that passengers are compliant with our border health measures and to maintain border security as travel continues to open.’

Easyjet was approached for a comment, but has yet to respond. 

  • For more on The Regenerative Clinic, which offers testing from £49, click here. For more on Qured, which offers testing from £39, click here.   



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