Positive Covid test on holiday – what now?

“What happens if I test positive for COVID before my flight home?”

During the Coronavirus pandemic, most air travel is subject to conditions. Depending on the current regulations of the country that you are visiting, you may be required to submit the results of a recent COVID PCR test before boarding the flight – both for the outbound flight and for the return journey. If the test is positive before the outbound flight, the case is clear: the traveller has to abandon their trip and must quarantine at home, that even if the traveller presents no symptoms. But what if someone tests positive before their flight home? How do the Delta or Omnicron variants impact the way we fly and travel? Do the COVID-19 travel bans prohibit me from travelling?  Is it even possible to fly after a positive COVID-19 test?  Through this article, we will explain how to proceed following a positive COVID test on holiday answering one simple question, “tested positive for COVID, now what ?”

The return flight must be postponed should a COVID test be positive

Let's start with the obvious. For those wondering if they can fly after they received a positive PCR test before a flight, you will not be able to take your scheduled flight home if you cannot submit a negative PCR test. The risk of infection for other passengers would be too great hence commercial airlines will not allow you to board a plane if you test positive for COVID. Therefore, you will have to postpone your return flight and cover the cost of your new ticket yourself. Neither the government nor any international health insurance policy will take over this cost.

You will be bound by the quarantine and COVID-19 regulations of the country you are staying in.

It is best to check the quarantine regulations in your destination country and COVID travel restrictions before you start your journey. At the latest, when you have your positive test result in front of you, you should carefully research what you need to do next. In almost all countries, you are obliged to quarantine for the duration of your infection. But the way in which this must be done can differ significantly from country to country. How long to quarantine after the positive COVID test is dependent on the patient and the regulations of the country you are based. Several medical reports have suggested that it is indeed possible to test positive for COVID after 14 days. 

Some popular holiday destinations, such as Mallorca, no longer require isolation/quarantine upon arrival. However, in other countries, you are responsible for finding a place in which to quarantine. Many hotels have now adapted to the situation and also accommodate COVID-19 positive guests, although they naturally have to self-isolate in their rooms.

The rules around who pays for this quarantine period are different from country to country. Your national health insurance and most international health insurance policies will not cover this, as a quarantine stay in a hotel is not a medical service. And neither can you expect support with this from your home country. This leaves two options: in some cases, the country you are staying in will cover the accommodation costs for the specially set up quarantine hotels. For destinations where this does not happen, the traveller is responsible and can take out a special COVID-19 travel insurance policy, which will also cover the accommodation costs if quarantine becomes necessary. While you may have the option of retesting after a positive COVID test in some countries, how long you stay positive will significantly impact the duration and costs of staying in a foreign country, specifically if the foreign country does not cover your accommodation costs. 

Generally, you should expect your quarantine period to last about 10 to 14 days. However, the regulations in individual countries also differ in terms of the length of the required quarantine period. In some countries, it may also be possible to ‘clear’ yourself upon receiving a negative PCR test result before the end of the prescribed quarantine period. This builds the case to always verify if the country you are in allows you to retest after a positive COVID test.

If you have severe COVID symptoms, you will need medical help

Of course, the best-case scenario is that your COVID-19 infection turns out to be mild. Despite the positive PCR test, it is quite likely that you will remain symptom-free or show only mild symptoms for which you will not need a doctor.

However, there is also a risk that you will develop more severe COVID-19 symptoms over time. In this case, you should seek medical treatment from a doctor or go to a hospital. Again, it is best to gather all the information you need in advance so that you do not lose precious time when you need to seek treatment. Should you be wondering whether you can test positive to COVID after getting the vaccine, the answer is simply ‘yes.’ Even after you are vaccinated, you can still be contagious to you and your loved ones. 

You can fly home at any time – just not in a scheduled commercial aircraft

It is a common misconception that after a positive COVID test you will be stuck in the country you are staying in and will not be allowed to leave. This is not the case, because you are only not permitted to travel onboard a regular commercial airliner. You must instead remain isolated throughout the journey in order to comply with the quarantine regulations, if any in the country that you are in. Depending on your state of health, a flight home in a private jet or a specially equipped ambulance aircraft is thus possible.

COVID Patient Transfer in Private Jet

Patients who are free of symptoms can travel alone in a private plane without any problems. Transport to the airport and check-in can be arranged in such a way that you have no direct contact with other people.

Onboard the private plane itself, you will remain alone in the passenger cabin. The pilots will be in the cockpit and in this particular case there will be no cabin crew on board. This way, you will be complying with the quarantine guidelines but can still fly home quickly, safely and comfortably. Of course, we will also arrange for the appropriate quarantine-compliant transport from the airport in your home country to your home.

Ambulance aircraft for COVID positive travellers

If you have to make your return flight under medical supervision, you can travel by air ambulance. A specialised flight doctor will be on hand to take care of you throughout your flight. Our ambulance jets are also fitted with modern intensive care equipment so that nothing stands in the way of a safe patient transfer. Naturally, we will also organise the ambulance journey to the airport and to your destination in your home country.

There are two ways to ensure you are isolated during the ambulance flight. In the case of minor illness, the medical personnel will wear protective clothing to minimise the risk of infection. For example, Bayern Munich football player Thomas Müller made use of this option when he fell ill with COVID-19 in Qatar.

In the case of more severe illness and on long-distance flights, we will use an isolation unit in which the patient can lie comfortably. Medical ports allow doctors to intervene at any time, while reduced pressure inside the unit ensures that the virus cannot escape.

Travelling home in an ambulance

If the journey home is not too long, a ground ambulance can be another good transport option. While driving home in your own car or a hire car would violate the quarantine guidelines, transporting a patient in isolation is allowed. Accompanied by medical personnel in PPE (personal protective equipment), you will be returned home safely. The team will also take care of your meals, so that you do not have to leave the vehicle at all during the journey.

Both the length of the journey and the exact route play a part when assessing whether transport by ground ambulance is possible. If an additional means of transport is required, a ground ambulance journey is out of the question. With regard to the distance to be travelled, it is necessary to decide in each individual case whether an ambulance trip is justifiable, taking into account the patient’s general constitution. For some, a 9-hour drive from Monaco to Paris may not be a problem. For other patients, the stress would be intolerable, especially as it is important to rest when diagnosed with COVID-19.

COVID positive? We'll get you home.

After a positive COVID-19 test on holiday, you can rely on the Medical Air Service. We will organise your fast and safe journey home, so that you do not have to spend the quarantine period at your holiday location abroad. Our private jets, ambulance aircraft and ground ambulances are on standby for you worldwide, and our international team will relieve you of as much of the organisational effort as possible. With our decades of experience, we will bring you home safely!

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