Stephen Huang, a Chinese national, works as a research analyst for a financial services firm. He has lived in the United Kingdom for 14 years.
Earlier this week, his planned trip to visit his family in China was cancelled after he received conflicting Covid-19 test results during a layover at Copenhagen Airport.
He told The Local he has not seen his wife and two children, one of whom was born in 2020, since October last year.
“I booked my flight in April, paying £1,500 as there are currently no direct flights from the UK to China. The cost was three times the cost during the pre-Covid period. There was no other option as I had to meet my wife and my two kids (aged) five years and ten months,” Stephen told The Local.
The Local has seen copies of Stephen’s boarding cards, stamped negative and positive Covid-19 test results from Copenhagen Airport, and QR code issued by the Chinese Embassy in Copenhagen.
“I arrived at Copenhagen airport on May 18th. The previous day I was required to be tested in London for both PCR and antibody [blood test, ed.], and both results were negative,” he said.
“Once at Copenhagen airport, I was required to be tested again for PCR and antibody, this time with the local institution Airport Doctor, organised by the airline, at a cost of €375. I waited for about 4-5 hours and received my results, both were negative,” he explained.
The certificate, seen by The Local, includes the stamp and signature of Airport Doctor’s testing staff. It shows a negative test result. The Local has also seen the test results from London.
“It was a huge relief and I texted my wife literally saying that ‘nothing can go wrong from here’. About 30 minutes after I sent my results to the Chinese embassy, I received their green QR code which is required to board the flight (to Shanghai),” Stephen said.
“However, not long before departure I was given another set of results and the personnel for Airport Doctor claimed that they made a ‘mistake’ with my previous results and the new certificate is the correct one. In the new certificate, it shows I tested positive for the IgM antibody, this contradicts with their previous certificate and the test result I received in London,” he said.
Stephen said he had “no confidence” in what he was told because “they issued, signed and stamped two certificates with contradictory results.”
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By the time it had presented Stephen with the new result, the Covid-19 test service provider had already contacted the Chinese embassy to withdraw his green QR code, required to board the ongoing flight to Shanghai, he said.
“This is obviously devastating as it means I can no longer board the flight and months of preparation is gone,” he explained.
“I (then) received a call from the Chinese Embassy in Denmark explaining that they did not understand what had happened and suggested that I ask Airport Doctor to run another antibody test. They could re-issue a green QR code if the results (were) negative,” he continued.
This transpired to be impossible because Airport Doctor personnel were no longer to be found at their stations, ostensibly having left work.
Stephen said he had been poorly treated by both the testing firm and the airline, adding he had filed complaints with both. He also told The Local that, after contacting Airport Doctor, the company contacted him and apologised for issuing two certificates. It put this down to a “clerk error”. The Local has seen a copy of the correspondence.
Airport Doctor also told Stephen that its chief doctor has spoken to SAS and the Chinese Embassy in Copenhagen about the matter. It also wrote that its tests suggested he has been vaccinated against Covid-19. Stephen has not received the Covid-19 vaccine, however.
The Local has contacted Airport Doctor to request comment.
A spokesperson with SAS said the company sympathised over the situation and noted it does not have a preferred partner for coronavirus testing at Copenhagen Airport.
“We don’t have a preferred partner for Covid tests and the tests that passengers (take) are a contract between the passenger and the service provider,” Alexandra Lindgren Kaoukji, acting head of media relations for SAS in Denmark, told The Local.
Airport Doctor is the only test provider approved by the Chinese Embassy for tests valid for travel to China, Lindgren Kaoukji said.
“This scenario is of course very unfortunate circumstances for the passenger. It’s challenging times we are in with the pandemic still ongoing but we try to constantly develop solutions making it easier for our passengers to travel,” she added.
Stephen called the conduct of Airport Doctor and SAS “highly unprofessional and irresponsible.”
“After making the terrible mistake of giving me two certificates, (they) clearly did not provide a convincing explanation and wasted valuable time” when another test could have been arranged, he said.
“I do not understand how the validity of an issued, signed and stamped certificate can be omitted by mere words,” Stephen added.
“The airline offered no help regarding my situation. As a result, I was left alone at the airport with no access to food nor accommodation. I could not leave the terminal as I had no Schengen visa. Luckily, I managed to book another flight back to London, paying another £475. I will be required to self-quarantine for another 10 days after arriving in the UK, which further delays my plan of going back to China,” he said.
Stephen estimated that, given the expected costs of booking a new trip, additional testing and the flight back to London, the episode could leave him with an overall bill of as much as £10,000.
Editor’s note: At the request of Stephen, we have not used his real name but a nickname. Stephen’s identity is known to The Local.
Feel so sorry for this person. Rapid tests such as the ones done at airports are not as accurate as tests which are done in the laboratory, so he more than likely had a false positive.
As for the company packing up and leaving before the flight left is also unfortunate – but the company having realised they made a potential mistake, should have arranged a re-test before ringing the Chinese embassy, perhaps they will put that down to another ‘clerical error’.