The home secretary, Priti Patel, announced further Covid travel restrictions requiring anyone returning from high-risk countries to quarantine in hotels at their own expense. Three Britons have expressed their frustration with the new policy.
‘I was checking my phone, petrified that the rules would change’
Gareth, 36, said his family spent £5,000 on three flights to get back from South Africa on Wednesday morning before the new restrictions came in. They spent another £250 on a taxi from Heathrow to their home in Warwickshire.
But he desperately scrambled to return home because the additional cost of being quarantined in a hotel for 10 days would be prohibitive. “People are talking about [it costing] £1,000 or £500 pounds per person.”
He, his wife and their four children, aged 11, eight, four and two, flew out to Cape Town in October because a relative was seriously ill. Following the funeral, they were anxious to return.
“Last night I was on the runway at Johannesburg checking my phone, petrified that the rules would change overnight,” said Gareth.
The government had already banned all travel from 22 countries where there was a risk of known variants, including South Africa, Portugal and South American nations. But Gareth was surprised that there were few checks at Heathrow. “The chap at border control had no mask on,” he added. The family is now self-isolating at home for 10 days.
‘It’s disappointing to learn we would have to quarantine in a hotel and pay for it’
David, 89, and Marion Young, 81, have been on holiday in Tavira in Portugal since October but are hoping to return home to Aberdeen soon. “We tried to come back on 26 December but our flight was cancelled by British Airways,” said David. “It’s the second time it’s happened.”
The couple, who are staying in an apartment until the end of March, said they would prefer not to stay in a quarantine hotel when they return. “We have a self-contained apartment in Aberdeen and have no wish to stay in a hotel as prescribed by the government,” said David. .”
Marion added that they “want to follow the rules” but “really need to get back” so they can be vaccinated. “It’s a very difficult time for everyone but it’s disappointing to learn we would have to quarantine in a hotel and pay for it ourselves,” said David.
‘It’s going to cost a fortune. I work for a charity. They can’t afford it’
Christian Plowman, who just arrived back in London from the Republic of the Congo (Congo Brazzaville) – which is not on the list of high-risk countries at the moment – said the new quarantine rules would make it too expensive for him to continue to fly to Africa for his work tackling the illegal wildlife trade.
Plowman, 47, who said he usually flies to western and central Africa 10 to 15 times a year, also described the new restrictions as a bit sinister. “How can you detain someone in a hotel, especially when the live here? I simply won’t travel. It’s going to cost a fortune. I work for a charity. They can’t afford it.”
But he was relieved that there were stricter checks at border control when he arrived at Heathrow on Wednesday morning. “In the last 12 months I have flown in and out only four times, but at the UK end I have never been stopped, never been spoken to, never asked for any reason for travel and never have I had my locator form checked. They were actually very effective this morning. They asked for my Covid-negative certificate and my government locator form.”