A BRITISH couple arriving back from Spain has criticised the UK’s testing system for returning citizens as being ‘not fit for purpose’ after its recommended COVID-19  test providers failed to send out their self-testing kits. 

Retired Dave Cronin, 73, and wife Sue Baines, 69, were both forced to return to the UK last weekend.

They travelled back to England after spending the last six months at their apartment in Estepona on the Costa del Sol.

The pair, who voted remain, had to move home in order to comply with post-Brexit rules.

Under the new changes, Brits are no longer able to remain in Spain for longer than 90 days without residency.

The couple shelled out a total of €290 for two negative COVID-19 tests before boarding their flight back to Manchester Airport on Friday, March 26. 

They also paid 001 Doctor UK – one of the government’s recommended providers – £182 each to receive tests when they returned.

Government guidelines state that travellers should quarantine for 10 days and take a test on day two and day eight, with fines of up to £10,000 for those who fail to comply.

The Day Two tests were waiting for Dave and Sue at their Manchester home and the pair took the tests and returned them to the company the same day.

Yet over a week later, Dave is still awaiting his Day Two results and the couples Day Eight tests are still to arrive. 

He told the Olive Press: “It seems this service is not fit for purpose. Day Two test kits were awaiting us upon arrival which we duly took and returned.

“We then started to receive phone calls from the tracking system, again outsourced to a company called SITEL. My wife and I each received two calls a day at the outset often within half an hour of each other,  all calls following a prescribed set-question format. 

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Dave and Sue travelled back to Manchester from Spain because of Brexit

“It became a Kafkaesque nightmare. If you don’t make it to the phone in the prescribed period as happened to my wife  on one occasion it would appear the police are alerted. 

“We then received a visit from, not one, but two police officers who must have been instructed to ascertain our whereabouts by Sitel. They appeared to agree with me that this was a colossal waste of police time and resources.

“After a day my wife received her, fortunately negative result, but nothing for me despite the fact that we had sent the tests back  at the same time. Now into Day 9 and I have still not had results

“We have not received  the 8 day tests despite the fact that we could be fined for not completing them.” 

Dave said he attempted to contacted 001 Doctor on ‘numerous occasions’ via phone and email to avoid being slapped with a hefty fine for non compliance with quarantine regulations. 

On top of the fear of fines, the couple said they are desperate to complete the Day Eight test to allow them to attend their vaccinations on Tuesday, April 5. 

Dave said: “My wife is due to end quarantine tomorrow and has a vaccine booked for Tuesday, as do I,  on the assumption that she may have a case for not paying a £10,000 fine through not completing the eight day test.” 

Even more frustratingly the pair paid extra for a Day Five test to allow them to end quarantine early, but have been left scratching their head over the entire process. 

“I filled out another Passenger Locator Form as instructed. The test, with a different provider, was negative so I was now  free of  quarantine.

“However, the phone calls with the same  standard questions continued on a daily basis and indeed now increased because the new passenger locator form had triggered a new profile  in the system.

“I pointed out that I was now free of quarantine and presumably should  be free of daily calls.

“I accepted that I needed to complete  the 8 day test but this was difficult to do if was not delivered.

 “What is the logic behind allowing individuals to pay more money to escape from quarantine  after 5 days if 10 days of quarantine is deemed in the  interests of public safety?” Dave asked. 

He added: “Franz Kafka in the extremes of his imagination couldn’t have made this stuff up. It is  also another example of style over substance or as my dear granny used  to say ‘All fur coats and no knickers’.” 

Dave wants to know how the Government is vetting companies providing testing services.

He said: “One assumes that all listed providers have passed the Government’s procurement procedures but there are no guidelines to individuals paying the fees about criteria for choosing a test provider. They all seem to be in partnership with ONCOLOGICA, so they are simply middlemen.

“The assumption is that they all offer the same service in order to comply with the government’s quarantine system, and yet there is a difference in price of up to £100 per person, so the obvious choice is to minimise costs and go for the cheapest offer. 

“Why we couldn’t pay the NHS is unknown, especially as there is spare testing capacity in our area and NHS tests are being offered free of charge. 

“Additional funding  from this source would  presumably help the NHS.”

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