European travellers are having to endure “endless inconveniences that clearly aren't enforced or checked”, which turned Express reader Alex Jans’ long-anticipated trip into an experience that was "not relaxing or enjoyable”.
“Having just returned from a short trip back to visit friends and family, I wanted to share my experience of visiting Guernsey from outside the CTA with varied levels of success along the way.
As soon as travel from the EU was permitted we made plans to visit family and friends after 18 months of not seeing them. We created our travel tracker accounts, uploading relevant proof of vaccination three weeks before we arrived and 48 hours before arrival we duly completed the planned trips section. We travelled by boat from France, Condor operated a thorough check-in process, checking and double checking our vaccination documents and this was followed up by a further check from the customs team at the port.
Upon arrival in Guernsey we were happy with the efficient arrival process at the east arm, the team were friendly and helpful, the 'test on arrival' ran smoothly and we were quickly on our way to isolation. The team advised that if we did not receive a text within 36 hours we should follow up with a call to the travel tracker team.
We had heard mutterings that non Guernsey numbers did not always work, so the following day we tried to contact the travel tracker team to update the number to a local relative.
After 45 minutes of listening to the repeated 20 seconds of music they have decided to pick we gave up! We decided instead to phone the testing team. The person answering the phone was brilliant, really helpful and friendly. He told us that we had indeed been sent a text at 0850 that morning, but as our number was a dutch number we did not receive the text.
Luckily he was able to tell us we were both clear to leave isolation and we could update our number with him for receiving the call for our day 7 test appointment and results.
Two days later the relative who’s number we choose to use, received a text message with one of our test results, the other appears to be lost to the system. Thankfully by then we were not still waiting in isolation!
Three days later my wife and I both received separate emails advising that the proof of vaccination we had uploaded to the travel tracker wasn’t suitable and we needed to provide alternative proof ASAP. We provided alternative documents on the same day, but heard nothing by way of confirmation that the alternatives were acceptable. Whilst we are both fully vaccinated, and could provide multiple documents the lack of clarity regarding what exactly is deemed appropriate by Guernsey States opinion was very unhelpful!
The day before our day 7 test we had not heard anything from the travel team regarding our follow up test. So, yet again I had to take on the painful task of listening to that same 20 seconds of jazz music for more than 45 minutes with no indication of queue position or estimated wait time.
If you have a situation where the call volume is repeatedly higher than normal, then that is in fact "normal call volume" and you don't have enough staff answering the phone. The person on the phone was helpful enough, but they seemed to prefer using the time to advise me that someone would phone me 48 hours before day 7 and then state how surprised they were that no one had phoned me, further questioning me on whether I had perhaps missed their calls! The day 7 test appointment went as quickly as the day 1 test, but again only one of us ever got a text message confirming a negative result.
So to the crux of why I’m writing today. It is frustrating enough that European travellers have to endure different treatment to those based in the UK (I won't go into the long list of reasons why this doesn't sit right with me), but to then have to go through these endless inconveniences that clearly aren't enforced or checked, really did not make the long anticipated trip at all relaxing or enjoyable.
The support teams do a thankless task, and when you can actually speak to someone they do everything they can to help. The travel team response via facebook chat is extremely efficient, but the initial making contact by telephone is painful and clearly under-resourced. It seems the number for the travel tracker is also the one for drop in vaccinations.
If Guernsey is genuinely open to European travellers, then why doesn’t it have a system that can send messages to foreign numbers, send them via email or upload them back to the travel tracker? Not everyone has access to a local or UK number.
What is perhaps most concerning though; Why weren’t our vaccination documents checked well before we arrived or when we arrived, and instead only found to be a problem after we arrived and a full 3 days into our passive follow up? My wife and I still do not have confirmation that the documents we subsequently provided were acceptable and have both chased this up for future trips we may want to make to Guernsey. This seems somewhat unacceptable to both visitors and the locals the CCA are trying to protect.”
Richard Evans, the States of Guernsey’s Programme Director for the COVID response, said in response:
“While we’re not able to comment in detail on individual cases, I would like to provide some general comments that may help explain our processes.
“Firstly I’d like to thank your correspondent for highlighting the excellent support teams we have who go above and beyond to try and resolve any challenges faced by Islanders and visitors when they travel. They face high volumes of calls and at times that can mean queues and delays, but they are incredibly hard-working and do their best for each and every customer
“For our teams as well as for the travelling public, there’s no doubt travel is not like it was in pre-COVID times, and all jurisdictions have additional, more complex requirements in place to ensure travel can be carried out as safely as possible.
“In Guernsey, negative test results from all PCR tests are returned to the person taking the test by text message. This includes all travellers, from all parts of the world. We check our system to ensure that every result has been sent from the system we use to the recipients’ mobile number. But what we have found more recently is that some European mobile phone providers do not handle them either promptly or at all.
“This is not the case for all European providers and the majority do not appear to encounter this issue, but we do advise travellers to contact us if they think their result is overdue.
“The team working on the borders will ensure people have completed the Travel Tracker and that they arrive successfully. Our policy has always been to trust locals and visitors, and undertake some checks in the system retrospectively. This policy has served the Bailiwick well and continues to do so.
“I would stress that while we want to be as helpful as possible in solving any difficulties travellers encounter, it is ultimately the responsibility of the traveller to ensure they have the correct documentation for the jurisdiction they are visiting. And in this period where all travel, all over the world, involves more checks and more documentation, people really should take care to look up what’s required before they go anywhere.
“For those coming to Guernsey from Europe, please check the requirements online athttps://covid19.gov.gg/guidance/travel. The information on this website is kept up to date and accurate in respect of travelling from Europe and the certification required.”