Vickie Scullard, a British resident in Madrid explains how she was faced with extortianate costs to comply with UK travel requirements to get home.
Like many Brits living abroad, I cheered when the UK Government finally announced it would recognise those of us who have been doubly vaccinated in EU countries.
With summer now in full swing and temperatures hitting 35C in Madrid, the pull of a good ol’ English poor down is strong, and being a northerner with see-through skin, it’s more like a necessity.
So when transport secretary Grant Shapps announced that from August 2, 2021, fully vaccinated people travelling from Spain to the UK could enter without having to quarantine, as long as you have the EU digital certificate, I was already searching for my Mac and wellies and organising a cheap getaway to see my friends and family.
But unfortunately it hasn’t turned out quite as expected – due to a technicality, I am one of perhaps a number of Brits living in Spain that will still have to quarantine when I fly over to Manchester this week.
According to the small print in the new UK rules, I am not deemed ‘fully vaccinated’ and fit to travel sin cuarentena simply because there are only seven days between my second vaccine and my flight.
The new rules say that there needs to be a minimum of 14 days between the two.
The Gov.uk website states:
‘Fully vaccinated’ means you must have had your final dose of the approved vaccine at least 14 whole days before you arrive in England.
The day you have your final dose does not count as one of the 14 days.
In naive hope I even contacted the helpful people at the Citizens Advice Bureau Spain who confirmed that there is no wiggle room and that yes, I would have to quarantine.
So despite being double jabbed and in possession of the aforementioned EU digital certificate, this means nada right now – although when I return to Spain I won’t need another PCR to enter the country.
Lacking these extra seven days has led me to fork out more than £300 on FOUR covid tests for my two-week trip.
Here’s a breakdown:
- Pre-flight PCR: £83 (€99)
- Day 2 and 8: £160 (€188 approx)
- Same day Test to Release (TTR): £95 (€112 approx)
- Total: £338 (€400 approx)
That’s not including my flight, which was an extra £100 (€118). Thankfully I’m not paying accommodation costs.
I could have slimmed down the price somewhat had I been brave enough to take a pre-flight antigen test (€40 approx), but with the government’s ‘recommendation’ of a PCR, I didn’t want to risk the rules changing overnight and it being too late for me to do anything about it.
On top of that I paid extra for the same day TTR to halve my 10-day quarantine, because I have been advised that some of the home kits delivered to your door by post are not always reliable. Some arrive late, and worse still, most results don’t come through until day six or as late as day seven, meaning more time indoors.
Or half my holiday wasted.
Take a look on TripAdvisor – the reviews for some ‘government recommended’ companies will curl your hair.
In the end I went with Collinson, which is the testing company based at Manchester Airport, where I can take my day two test as soon as I land, apparently.
This means I only have to leave on day five for the TTR, before breaking quarantine later that day and enjoying said downpours – which, I am advised, are currently plentiful. Then day eight will bring the fourth and final test.
So if you’re one of the unlucky ones, like me, it might be worth trying to change your flights to fit with your vaccine timetable. I couldn’t do that unfortunately, so I am just having to take the hit this time round.
It does make me wonder whether the distant memory of hopping from Spain to England and back again on the cheap has come to an end completely. Due to the nature of the vaccines – such as needing regular boosters – the digital certificates will likely become invalid unless the correct tally is documented.
Which for Brits living in Spain will mean timing a getaway perfectly, or not having one at all.
If that’s the case, next year I’ll take my €400 and switch northern England to northern Spain. I hear it rains beautifully up there, too.