‘There is no excuse for this’ – anger and dismay over airport chaos
Travellers have spoken of their anger and dismay over airport delays and missed flights caused by a log-jam in Covid-19 test results.
While the Ministry of Health said staff on the Covid-19 hotline had been bolstered to meet demand, one disgruntled passenger described the situation at LF Wade International Airport on New Year’s Day as “chaos”.
The Health Ministry blamed the situation on a surge in testing demand triggered by the Omicron strain outbreak, but many people who contacted The Royal Gazette insisted it was a breakdown in the Government e-mail system that caused the turmoil.
One angry passenger who has written to David Burt, the Premier, to express his outrage, stated: “My arrival at the airport in Bermuda today (Saturday, January 1) was, without question, the worst travel experience I have been forced to endure.
“The queues were endless. The limited staff that were on hand were completely overwhelmed. There were no trolleys. There was no organisation. In short, it was chaos and took hours to exit the airport.
“The plane had already taken off and was on its way back to Miami and all the passengers were still standing in queues for Covid tests.
“There is no excuse for this.”
He added “Bottom line: whomever is in charge is clearly asleep at the switch.”
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said that while antigen testing is available at LF Wade International Airport, outbound passengers should still undergo testing at a testing facility before their departure date.
She added: “Outbound passengers who have been tested at a government site should check for their results prior to heading to airport.
“Presently, Airport antigen testing is for those passengers who have not received their results in a timely fashion, and whose travel plans will be impacted.
“The Ministry apologises for any inconvenience caused, and again encourages persons to contact the Call Centre at 444-2498 or 1-833-570-2594 for updates on their test results before travelling to the airport.
“Staff have been assigned to meet the peak demand times for inquiries.”
Another passenger, who was travelling with their two-year-old child, failed to receive Covid-19 results as scheduled and was left on a hotline for 90 minutes as they sought clarification.
The traveller said: “We got to the airport and they refused to check us in and we tried to ask them what the plan was, given a lot of people would be in the same situation.
“The supervisor told us we would be ‘presumed to be positive if we didn’t have a negative result’ in hand so had to leave the airport and go outside and wait for our results.
“Other people we met said when they got through on the hotline they were told just ‘cross your fingers‘ for you to get your result in time.”
The passenger said after some delay they got an antigen test at the airport, adding: “Then the government server went down - so no one could get their results sent to them.”
Lack of communication on the Government’s part was criticised by a person waiting for their overdue results.
They stated: “While I totally understand the overload with the new cases, daily travellers, and then the requirement of the United States for 24 hour testing, my biggest frustration was the lack of communication.
“I had no idea that I could be tested at the airport. I just wish that a mass communication has been sent out with options and that a partnership would be formed with private labs to ease the load on the government lab.”
The Government has introduced antigen testing at the airport, but travellers have warned the airport testing is only intended for those who have gone through the regular testing process, but have not received their results in time.
Travellers who need to take such a test should arrive at the airport at least four hours before departure time.