You left us with ‘no choice’! Fury as Britons fleeing Portugal pay nearly £1,000 to fly home to beat quarantine only for government to keep country on its safe travel list
- Bristol single dad John Cushing said he had to cut his Portugal holiday short beat the quarantine that never happened and get his daughter Georgie, 12, to school
- Jonathan Lake, from Cardiff, remained in Crete and said he was ‘seething’ that he and his family will now have to self-isolate, whereas the English don’t
- Sturgeon has ordered 14-day quarantine for Greece, Wales for six of its islands
- Scotland and Wales also moved unilaterally to impose restrictions on Portugal
- Kelly Jones, from Birmingham, changed her flights from Faro from Saturday to Friday to avoid restrictions on Portugal – but no changes were made to its status
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Families have told of their agony after paying huge prices to get home from Portugal to beat a heavily-hinted new quarantine – only for the restriction to never appear.
Bristol single dad John Cushing said he had to cut his Portugal holiday short beat the quarantine that never happened and get his daughter Georgie, 12, back to school.
He paid £1,000 for flights home on Thursday after seeing reports it could have been added to the list.
He said: ‘My daughter was in tears yesterday at the thought of not being able to go back to school and see her friends.
‘She has already missed most of year seven [at school] and I can’t let her miss the first two weeks of year eight.
‘The airlines have us over a barrel and don’t seem to have any sympathy.”
Holiday goers arriving back to the UK after Portugal was not added to the UK quarantine list
Jonathan Lake with his son. The Welsh father-of-two whose family will have to self-isolate for 14 days after remaining out in Greece has branded the inconsistency between Westminster and Cardiff ‘an absolute joke’
There has been widespread speculation this week that Portugal could be added to the UK’s quarantine list – but today Grant Shapps has announced there will be no changes
He told the BBC once he heard rumours of the new travel restrictions he felt he had to get them home.
Jodie Hudson-Cox changed her plans too to come back on Friday instead of Saturday.
She added: ‘I re-booked early this week for flights coming back into East Midlands airport on Friday. We booked the flights so we weren’t sat here worrying about it all week.’
And a Welsh father-of-two, whose family will have to self-isolate for 14 days after remaining out in Greece, has branded the inconsistency between Westminster and Cardiff ‘an absolute joke.’
It comes after Wales and Scotland imposed their own quarantine rules on Portugal, Nicola Sturgeon also mandating 14-day isolation for arrivals from Greece and Wales adding six Greek islands to its list.
But the UK’s Transport Minister Grant Shapps said there would be no changes to the English travel corridors sparking fury among passengers over inconsistent messaging.
Jonathan Lake, from Cardiff, who is staying with his wife and two children near Chania, said: ‘It’s the lack of consistent messaging and management across the whole UK Government I’m really angry about now – and the fact they’ve announced it at five o’clock UK time, so 7pm they’ve said “you’ve got until 4am tomorrow to get home”.
‘I mean, what, am I supposed to charter a private jet to try and get me and my family home?”
Mr Lake and his family are scheduled to fly back to London Gatwick on Tuesday with Tui.
He said: ‘I’m almost at the point where I’m thinking I’m just going to book a Premier Inn or something in Bristol – if it costs me five or six hundred pounds I don’t really care, I can afford it, I’ll do it – and stay there and I’ll just live my life as normal.
‘Because if there’s 196 people on that flight from England they can just go and live their life as normal, but because I live in Wales (Welsh Health Minister) Vaughan Gething has said “screw you, I’m going to make you sit in your house for 14 days”. It’s a joke, an absolute joke.’
Mr Lake, who works in the pharmaceutical industry and says he is working on Covid trials, believes the Government is being heavy-handed in its approach to the virus.
‘I’m more likely to die and kill my whole family in a car crash on the way home from Gatwick Airport than I am of dying from Covid, let alone infect a load of other people,’ he said.
‘It is beyond sense that they are taking this approach and I am so angry at the Welsh government and the whole government at how they’re handling this pandemic because the whole country is being fed a load of rubbish in how this is being done, and I’m fed up with it.’
Kelly Jones, from Birmingham, is at the other end of the spectrum, she paid Jet2 £900 to move her flights home from Faro from Saturday to Friday.
Ms Jones wanted to ensure her three children would not miss out on two weeks of school and was anticipating that quarantine rules were about to be brought in for Portugal given the high rate of infection.
The 45-year-old said the situation was ‘absolutely disgusting’, adding: ‘It’s cost us a lot more money and it’s money we didn’t need to spend now.
‘We’ve lost an extra night in our villa – we won’t get that back – we’ve got a hire car, so we’re taking that back a day early. It’s the knock-on effects as well.’
Wales and Scotland both added Portugal, as well as French Polynesia to their respective quarantine lists today.
The rate of Covid cases in Portugal has been above 20 per 100,000 for the past three days – the level at which the government considers introducing a quarantine.
Yesterday the number of new cases rose to 390 from 231 the day before, suggesting the current seven-day average of 22.7 will not decrease.
Following a week of speculation, Transport Minister Grant Shapps tweeted today: ‘We continue to keep the Travel Corridor list under constant review & won’t hesitate to remove countries if needed.
‘However, there are no English additions or removals today.
‘Nonetheless, holidaymakers are reminded – 14-day quarantine countries can & do change at very short notice.’
Sources told MailOnline that although Portugal was above the ‘trigger’ threshold for cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period, that appeared to be because they were carrying out more tests.
‘The rate of positives per test has actually gone down,’ one senior source said.
Brits have forked out hundreds of pounds to book urgent flights home from Portugal, amid fears it would be added onto the quarantine list
Mrs Jones added: ‘The Government just change the goalposts left, right and centre at the moment. It’s embarrassing.
‘They don’t make things clear enough. They say they need the rate under 20 and it’s gone above that this week, so why wouldn’t you think it would go on the quarantine list tonight?
‘You can guarantee if I hadn’t have booked those flights on Monday, that air bridge would have been removed tonight.’
The mother-of-three said she could not risk having to quarantine as her youngest child, who is four, is starting school for the first time next week, while her other two children, 11 and seven, are starting new schools.
‘There’s no way it would be fair on them two weeks later to go in when everyone else has already started to settle,’ she said.
In previous weeks, the Government has announced changes to its exemption list on Thursday with changes coming into force at 4am on Saturday, leading to a scramble for passengers to return in time to avoid having to quarantine.
Mrs Jones believes it would be fairer on holidaymakers if they were given more time to change their plans.
Some holidaymakers reacted positively to Grant Shapps’ announcement – but many were angered by the decision and predict a Government U-turn ‘within hours’
Travelers board a flight in Lisbon n its way to the UK. But it turned out they could have stayed in Portugal and still avoided quarantine when they got home
‘It’s always lastminute.com with the Government,’ she said. ‘They do the announcement on a Thursday night and then you’ve got til 4 o’clock on a Saturday morning to get home, which they know you can’t do.
‘They don’t give you enough time to do anything. They could have said at the start of the week ‘the numbers are going up but we’re going to sit on it for another seven to 10 days’ but they don’t do that.
‘It’s like, ‘we make the decision at five o’clock on a Thursday night and that’s it: bang, get home’. That’s where it’s wrong.’
Today Wales added mainland Portugal, and the Greek islands of Mykonos, Zakynthos, Lesvos, Crete and Paros and Antiparos to its quarantine list.
Azores and Madeira will remain exempt, Health Minister Vaughan Gething saidy, but Gibraltar and French Polynesia have been added.
Derek Lowdon told Sky News his brother paid a ‘ridiculous amount’ to cut his holiday short and return home to avoid quarantine
Anyone arriving in Wales from those areas from 4am on Friday must self-isolate for 14 days.
In a statement issued on Thursday evening, Mr Gething said: ‘This action is being taken as a result of a large number of cases of coronavirus have been imported into Wales from tourists returning from the Greek islands, in particular.
‘In the last week, there have been more than 20 cases confirmed in passengers on one flight from Zante to Cardiff.’
The Scottish Government required travellers from Greece to self-isolate for 14 days from Thursday.
Passengers arriving into Scotland from Portugal or French Polynesia will have to self isolate for two weeks as of Saturday, the Scottish Justice Secretary has confirmed.
Humza Yousaf tweeted: ‘If arriving into Scotland from Portugal or French Polynesia from 4am Sat you’ll have to self-isolate for 14 days.
The rate of coronavirus cases per 100,000 of population in Greece over the past seven days is just 14 – well short of the government’s quarantine threshold of 20
‘Gibraltar high up our watch list of countries we are monitoring closely.
‘This week’s data shows increase in test positivity & cases per 100k in Portugal.’
English families remain confused despite today’s announcement – after some cut their holidays short or cancelled them in fear of quarantine measures being introduced.
Speaking in Portugal, holidaymaker Derek Lowdon told Sky News earlier: ‘I’m a bit confused because I’ve just arrived today and, obviously hearing the rumours about quarantine, my son and wife have been unable to join me.
‘My brother has had to rush home because he’s had to go back to work and his son has got to go to university, so it’s a kind of double edged sword for me.
‘On one hand, it now sounds like my wife and son can come, which is fantastic, but my brother has now rushed home today and paid a ridiculous amount for a flight home and cut his holiday short from two weeks to four or five days.
Countries on UK Government’s quarantine list
England’s Quarantine List:
Trinidad and Tobago
Scotand’s Quarantine List also includes:
Portugal, Greece and French Polynesia.
The Welsh Quarantine List also includes:
Gibraltar, mainland Portugal, French Polynesia and six Greek islands: Mykonos, Zakynthos, Lesvos, Crete and Paros and Antiparos
‘It’s just this kind of confusion that is difficult for people.
‘It’s very unfair because people seem to be put on very short notice and not only is it very expensive, but they don’t know whether they are coming or going.
‘I mean it’s understandable that there’s issues and that’s fine. There’s been a spike in Lisbon, which is perfectly understandable.
‘But the Algarve, from the start of Covid, has been one of the safest places in the whole of Europe.
‘So why does it seem to be constantly punished? I think the locals are the best people to ask because they are totally bemused.’
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: ‘Days of speculation around this announcement meant many people rushed to pay extortionate prices for flights back to England to avoid having to quarantine on their return – only to now find out there was no need.
‘The Government knows this and yet it continues to offer no clarity around how these decisions are made, all while ignoring the growing evidence suggesting this system is not working.
‘If the Government is serious about letting international travel resume while prioritising public health, a major reassessment of its approach is needed.
‘It must also look further ahead to ensuring future travel is protected and bring in major reforms to restore confidence among holidaymakers who have been let down over this period.’
Tennis player Emma Coe, 15, said: ‘If I went back to England, I would be missing two weeks of tennis training.
‘I go to this full-time tennis academy at Dukes Meadows and I’ll be missing a lot of training.
‘My dad had to go home and my three brothers. My dad had to cut his holiday short from a week to four or five days.’
She said her father would be feeling ‘pretty annoyed’ that he cut his holiday short in anticipation the government would put Portugal on the quarantine list.
He had to pay extra for flights home for himself and his two sons.
Emma said: ‘My two other brothers would be annoyed. Very frustrating.’
After days of speculation, jubilant Brits looking forward to a holiday praised the Transport Minister for his ‘discretion’ – but many tourists already in Portugal are furious
Meanwhile, cases in Greece are currently at a similar level to the UK.
People arriving in England from countries not on the travel corridor list are required to self-isolate for 14 days.
The Government was also under pressure to reimpose quarantine rules on arrivals from Greece after Scotland and Wales introduced restrictions earlier this week.
Rising Covid cases prompted the Scottish Government to announce travellers from Greece would have to self-isolate for 14 days from today, while Wales began asking arrivals from the island of Zante to enter quarantine.
The UK’s biggest tour operator Tui has suspended its holidays to the resort of Laganas on Zante.
But Greece has insisted it is doing ‘everything in our power’ to keep UK holidaymakers safe.
There were 14.3 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in Greece in the seven days to September 1, up from 14.1 a week earlier. This is a similar rate to the UK and still below the quarantine threshold.
Britain has recorded another 17 coronavirus deaths today in the preliminary count – while new recorded cases rose by 1,735
It comes as rising cases in Portugal were prompting many UK tourists to pay hundreds of pounds to fly home before Saturday.
Earlier today the UK announced 1,735 new coronavirus cases in the biggest daily spike since June 4, when 1,805 were diagnosed with the disease and before the lifting of several lockdown restrictions.
The seven-day rolling average is now 1,435, a 26 per cent increase in a singular week as figures suggest cases are not slowing down.
The UK’s ambassador to Portugal, Chris Sainty, said on Monday: ‘Travellers should consider their plans carefully and factor in the risks of travelling abroad in this fast-moving situation.
‘As Grant Shapps said, only travel if you are content to unexpectedly quarantine if required.’
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