Autistic boy forced to take Covid test by Ryanair staff despite doctors letter

An autistic boy had a "meltdown" when he was stopped by Ryanair staff and forced to take a Covid test before boarding.

Callum Hollingsworth, 12, was travelling with his mum Katy to the UK from Valencia and was technically exempt from taking the test due to his hidden disability.

"They said if you don't have a Covid test you can't go home, so we had no choice," Katy, from Harlow in Essex, told BBC.

The boy had previously taken a Covid test in January which Katy called a "nightmare" and he took another one before he left the UK, but his family said they spent two months preparing him for this.

Upon their return on August 3 when the family arrived the airport, they were told that Callum must have another Covid test in order to board the plane, despite showing Ryanair staff the letter.

In a video taken by Callum's father, the boy is visibly distressed and can be seen kicking his legs in the air while trying to tell the medical staff that he had previously taken a swab test.

"I put it right there," Callum points at his nose and pants before breaking into tears.

His father says behind the camera: "A child with ADHD and autism refused Ryanair flight even with GP letter stating exemption.

"Not good enough for Ryanair desk. This is what has to happen to get on a Ryanair flight."

Katy said Callum "lost it" and had a "meltdown because he thought it was his fault".

"He started hitting the chair and then started hitting himself," she said. "The staff were just ignoring us. All they kept saying was 'it's not our problem'.

"Callum tried to be brave but he was petrified.

"The fact that he didn't need this one made it even worse because we'd told him the previous one was going to be his one and only test."

According to UK government guidance, people with medical conditions which mean they cannot take a test, do not need one to travel to the UK, providing they "present a note from a medical practitioner at check in".

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A spokesperson for Ryanair has apologised and says it "regrets to hear of the stress" caused.

They added: "Ryanair fully complies with EU & Govt travel restrictions, which are constantly changing in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We continue to make improvements and implement procedures to ensure the health and safety of our passengers and our crew is prioritised while complying with each country’s government guidelines at all times.

"Ryanair apologises for any inconvenience caused to Ms Hollingsworth and her family."

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