Brits who do not have symptoms of Covid-19 are taking advantage of the already overstretched NHS testing service so they can jet off on holiday to Cyprus.
The island in the Mediterranean, which has recorded less than 2,000 cases of coronavirus, requires travellers from the UK to hand over a negative Covid-19 test result upon arrival.
The government has explicitly told Brits not to use up NHS tests to get the green light to go on holiday, with the Test and Trace system already so backed up that sick people are being asked to travel hundreds of miles to be swabbed for the virus.
Guidelines say that Brits looking for some Cypriot sun should instead fork out for their own private Covid-19 tests, which usually cost between £100 and £200 – and many are.
But a number of people are actively fiddling the system in order to get the negative result they need to guarantee their trip to Cyprus.
In a Facebook group about travelling to Cyprus, one man described how he and his partner had used the NHS testing service in Scotland to go on holiday.
“The tests centres are empty at the moment and the results were received after 25 hours only,” he wrote.
“Yes it’s true you are not supposed to be using these tests for travel purposes but in many cases like ours we had no choice. Get a free test and get the results quickly or lose £1,800.
“The price for private tests in the UK right now is nothing but a joke. £150 a head in most cases where Cyprus offer tests at 60 euros each and guarantee results in 24 hours.”
Meanwhile, a second person tweeted: “I’m in Cyprus, had a free test on NHS, great service. Finally repaid some of the thousands I invest in it.”
Another wrote on Facebook: “I did use the NHS for a test when I went in September but now I’m going back in October I have booked a private test.
“If people want to use the NHS it’s up to them and people should keep their nose out of other people’s business, especially when they have done exactly the same thing. Maybe some people are on a very tight budget and can not afford a private test.”
The High Commission of Cyprus in the UK has also confirmed that the country will accept NHS test results from British travellers.
In an update on its website, the commission wrote: “NHS for #covid19 will be accepted in order to travel from UK to Cyprus.
“Travellers with negative NHS test need to have both their NHS test appointment booking and the NHS COVID-19 negative result notification. Result not more than 72 hours before departure.”
But the government has warned that holidaymakers should not be taking advantage of the NHS system.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care told HuffPost UK: “Only people with symptoms should be requesting a test – we all need to play our part to protect the NHS Test and Trace service for those who really need it.
“If you’re not eligible to get a test you can continue to protect yourself, loved ones and the public by washing your hands, wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces, practicing social distancing and self-isolating if you may have come into contact with the virus.”