Brits scramble to return to UK after new quarantine measures imposed

21 August 2020, 06:45

Prices for flights from quarantine nations rocketed following the announcement
Prices for flights from quarantine nations rocketed following the announcement. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

British holidaymakers face another scramble to get back to the UK before mandatory quarantine measures come into effect on several new countries.

The move comes after the Government announced Croatia, Austria and Trinidad & Tobago were being removed from the coronavirus safe travel list.

In an announcement on Thursday Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said travellers from those countries to the UK would be required to self-isolate for 14 days with the restrictions coming into effect from Saturday at 4am.

It comes as Portugal was given travel corridor status, meaning that Brits will not have to quarantine on their return to the UK from the country.

Searches for flights to Portugal have soared after the country was removed from the UK's quarantine list.

British holidaymakers have been forced to pay hundreds of pounds for alternative routes back from Croatia, after finding affordable flights home before Saturday's quarantine deadline almost impossible to come by.

Liam and Jodie, a couple from Keighley, West Yorkshire, paid about £800 to travel home from northern Croatia via Munich, in order to beat the quarantine deadline, after finding it impossible to book a direct flight in time.

"There wasn't an alternative. There are no flights from Pula to the UK on Fridays, only a flight from Zagreb to London runs, but obviously that was fully booked," Liam told reporters.

"The only (other) flights available were with stops in Spain through Ryanair, but then we would have to quarantine anyway," he added.

Liam, a mechanical assembly engineer, said he had started a new job recently so "didn't want to miss another two weeks work".

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Prices for flights from quarantine nations rocketed following the announcement by Mr Shapps, with British Airways advertising tickets for an early Friday morning flight between Zagreb, Croatia to London at 308 euro for economy class.

Similarly, the airline was on Thursday night advertising an economy seat on a flight from Vienna to London Heathrow for 538 euro.

A similar increase in prices happened when France was removed from the list of safe countries and Brits fought to make their way back to UK shores before the quarantine was imposed.

Figures released by Department for Transport (DfT) indicate that the weekly incidence (cases) per 100,000 for Croatia increased from 10.4 on August 12 to 27.4 on August 19, a 164 per cent increase.

Over the same period, Trinidad and Tobago saw a 232% increase in weekly incidence per 100,000, while Austria had a 93 per cent increase between August 13 and August 20 (from 10.5 per 100,000, to 20.3).

In Scotland, travellers from Switzerland will also be required to quarantine for a fortnight on their return to the country.

Meanwhile, new figures reveal that less than a third of people in England being tested for coronavirus in the wider population are receiving their results within 24 hours.

The latest data on the NHS Track and Trace programme show that 60.5 per cent of people who were tested for Covid-19 in the week ending August 12 at a regional site or mobile testing unit, a so-called "in-person" test, received their result within 24 hours.

Of those tested that week at a satellite test centre only 1.2 per cent received their results within 24 hours while just 3.8 per cent of people who used a home testing kits got results within 24 hours.

It comes as a group of MPs urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to adopt a "zero-Covid" approach to tackling the virus across England.

In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus said the measure would "provide clarity and reassurance" to the public.

Group chairwoman, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, said: "The Government has failed abysmally to put a clear strategy in place to eliminate coronavirus from the UK.

"This lack of clarity has left the public confused and our NHS and care staff flying blind.

"The Prime Minister must get a grip and introduce a comprehensive plan to control this deadly pandemic before this winter."

Mr Johnson is currently holidaying in Scotland with his fiancee, Carrie Symonds.

The Daily Mail has reported that the couple have been staying in a remote three-bedroom cottage on the Scottish coast.

The Prime Minister did not return from his holiday last week when exams chaos erupted after thousands of pupils had their results downgraded.

According to the Mail, Mr Johnson was offered the opportunity to make a public statement regarding the situation, but Downing Street declined.

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