LBC investigation uncovers fake ‘fit to fly’ testing to travel into the UK

18 August 2021, 17:19 | Updated: 19 August 2021, 18:35

By Charlotte Sullivan

A Spanish clinic has been offering fake ‘fit to fly’ certificates – with tests being done prior to the required three-day window, an LBC investigation has found.

Growing up in Spain and with immediate family still living there, it was always the plan to get back home as soon as government covid restrictions allowed.

I was and am willing to do tests involved in travelling to Spain, as this was never a holiday for me, always a trip home to visit elderly parents and relatives. Something I did every few weeks pre-pandemic.

So when it was announced that those who are double jabbed in the UK could travel to Spain without quarantine on return, I was ecstatic that I’d be able to go home for a few days.

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To get to Spain I didn’t need to do any tests. I only had to show proof I’d had both vaccines at least 14 days before travelling and the QR code from my Spanish health authority passenger locator form.

To come back to the UK though, things were a bit different. Firstly, I’d need an antigen or PCR test with a negative result, within 72 hours before my flight back. I would then need to do another PCR test on day 2 after arriving back in the UK and this had to be booked in advance, so the details and a booking code could be added to my UK passenger locator form.

A copy of Charlotte's 'fit to fly' certificate
A copy of Charlotte's 'fit to fly' certificate. Picture: LBC

The instructions and requirements were clear to me and I knew the area was getting busier with tourists, so I wanted to try and be ahead of the game and make sure we had our tests booked in. So after arriving in Spain on Sunday, on Tuesday, we called the local clinic who are doing antigen tests, to book one for me and one each for the two people I was travelling back to the UK with. We would need these tests to be done on Thursday afternoon or on Friday.

However, I was stunned at what happened next. The receptionist at the clinic explained that there were no appointments available on Thursday or Friday as they were fully booked, but then offered us a test the following day… on Wednesday.

We queried this and explained again that our flight back to the UK was on Sunday and the test needed to be done within 72 hours of that flight, but were then told that we could come on Wednesday afternoon and not to worry, because they could “just change the date” to the Saturday.

I was totally shocked. A test on Wednesday would have been 118 hours before my flight back to the UK – well outside of the 72-hour time frame required by the UK government and giving me an extra two days to contract the virus and then take it onto a plane.

The following morning, now the Wednesday, I called back and asked again, just to make sure I had heard correctly. I had.

I was offered a test that afternoon and told the date could be changed on the fit to fly certificate, to Friday or Saturday, to show that it had been taken within the timeframe needed to fly.

In the interest of work, I went for the test. I also wanted to see if this would actually happen, if the date would actually be altered. At the clinic reception, I explained again that my flight was on Sunday, four days away and asked if having the antigen test done this early would get me into trouble.

I was assured it wouldn’t and was told again how the date on the certificate would be changed so that it met guidelines. I was also told not to worry as “it probably wouldn’t be checked” anyway.

I did book another antigen test for us all at a different clinic that was done on the Friday morning, within the correct timeframe needed by the UK government to travel and which is what I used to travel back to the UK with.

But I do wonder how many people just went along with the other clinic’s faked certificates? How many people had tests done 118 hours prior to their flight but their certificates assured authorities they’d been tested within the previous 72 hours?

After all, when you’re on holiday, you’d ideally just want to get these tests and certificates to be a simple process and something that doesn’t take you away from the beach for too much time.

LBC's Reporter obtained a receipt for the test
LBC's Reporter obtained a receipt for the test. Picture: LBC

I contacted Britannia Clinic in Calpe where the test was done to ask them specifically about why they were changing the dates on certificates. They didn’t respond directly on this point but they did state that all (their) official certificates follow the Spanish Health regulations strictly and that (they) always send the list of positives to the local health authorities, but can't verify that everyone will wait for a new negative test before flying, driving or cruising.

The department for transport told LBC they "work closely with their partners to crack down on fraudulent testing providers" and say "pre-departure testing is in place to protect us all".

A spokesperson said: “We work closely with international partners to crack down on fraudulent testing providers.

“Spain’s National Police has already prevented and detained people suspected of issuing fraudulent test certificates, as well as those carrying false PDTs when trying to leave the country over the past few months. We continue to support their work.”