British vacationers have revealed how they endured long last minute car journeys and panicked thousands of pounds to get home from Croatia before the quarantine period – when they criticized the lack of warning.
Starting at 4 a.m. on Saturday, travelers coming to the UK from the Mediterranean country will have to self-isolate for 14 days after a surge in coronavirus cases led the UK government to remove Croatia from its safe-travel list.
At Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport on Friday evening, British Airways flights from the Croatian city of Dubrovnik and the capital Zagreb were among the last to arrive in the UK before the quarantine period expired.
Adam and Katie Marlow of Buckinghamshire had to drive a rental car from the coastal town of Zadar to Zagreb for three hours to catch a new flight home instead of returning on Saturday.
Starting at 4 a.m. on Saturday, travelers coming to the UK from Croatia must self-isolate for 14 days. Pictured yesterday tourists at Split International Airport in Croatia
The couple decided to return earlier than planned because Ms. Marlow, 33, was pregnant and had to go back to work Monday.
They said their new flights cost around £ 300 while the rental for maintenance was an additional £ 100.
When asked how the government is dealing with travel corridor rules, 37-year-old Marlow, who works for a financial company, said, “For most changes, I support everything they do. However, I would say they should publish the criteria by which the cases are.
Tourists with face masks wait at Split International Airport in Split, Croatia yesterday. Steve Laws, 53, a company executive from Thame, Oxfordshire, has labeled the government's actions "Shambolic".
Adam and Katie Marlow of Buckinghamshire had to drive a rental car from the coastal town of Zadar to Zagreb for three hours to catch a new flight home instead of returning on Saturday. In the picture yesterday there were crowds of people on Split beach
"Then we could have kept an eye on it … and we might have made a different decision, and maybe an earlier decision, and it might have cost us a little less money."
Ms. Marlow, a sales manager seven months pregnant, added, “I totally understand why they're doing this, but it would be good to have a little more warning as we only had 24 hours notice. That's all we had & # 39;
Meanwhile, 53-year-old Steve Laws, a company executive from Thame, Oxfordshire, has labeled the government's actions "Shambolic".
He spent about £ 2,000 to return from vacation eight days early with his wife and three children.
"There are no controls on immigration," he said on Friday evening. & # 39; The trial was an utter farce.
"We are acting in good faith with the government's rules and there is absolutely no evidence that the government is in any way monitoring whoever comes into the country," he said.
Passengers wearing face masks arriving at Heathrow Airport yesterday after a flight from Dubrovnik, Croatia, have landed
61-year-old Thomas Maguire, a sales manager from Northern Ireland, was scheduled to fly back on Sunday but returned to break the quarantine period due to the impact on his family.
Describing the rule change as "a complete mess", he said he had spent nearly £ 400 on a flight that he wanted to make up for through insurance.
"Why they decided to do it the way they did is not evidence of scientific evidence … that I'm safer today than tomorrow," he said.
Meanwhile, 41-year-old Cristiano Torti spent around £ 1,500 flying his wife and two young children home six days earlier than planned.
He said his family had lost around £ 500 to the original return flights but did not want to be quarantined at home for two weeks.
Flights to Portugal have now increased sixfold, but hotel prices have fallen as the British plan a late summer vacation as the country is back on the UK's "green list".
"It would have been a nightmare, I have two little kids who are the best people to drive me crazy," he joked.
“My wife and I both work from home, so it would have been very difficult for her at home.
No flights? How to get home by train from Croatia
British vacationers in Croatia had limited options to get home to break the quarantine as very few direct flights were available on Friday.
They could book a flight with a layover on the way back to the UK, but that meant a travel time that was more like a transatlantic excursion than a short-haul trip to Europe.
But those who don't mind a long hike might choose to avoid airplanes altogether and take the railroads all the way home.
A quick online search shows possible routes, timetables and prices, so a number of Britons may unexpectedly discover parts of Europe by train in the next few hours.
One possible option, which takes around 20 hours, is to hop on a train in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, and travel through Villach and Salzburg in Austria, Munich in Germany, and on to Paris to catch the Eurostar to London.
Another option would be to leave Zagreb and travel to London via Brussels.
There is also the option to leave Croatia and travel through part of northern Italy – Trieste, Venice and Milan – and on to the French capital before the final leg of the trip across the Canal to London begins.
With train journeys from Zagreb to London taking between 20 and 25 hours, vacationers would have to start their European rail adventure by now to be home by 4 a.m. on Saturday.
"Another consequence would have been that my oldest child would have missed a bit of school."
Mr. Torti, an Oxfordshire developer, added, "If we hadn't had children, we might have just waited for them … but with two young children at home it wasn't doable."
A 'gutted' Mr Torti said he was aware of the risk of changing travel rules, but added: "However, I wonder if the government could be a little more selective.
“I understand, for example, that there are certain hotspots in Croatia where the case numbers were quite high, so they could potentially be selective for those traveling from those particular hotspots.
"On the other hand, people would have found a way around that."
He added: “We lost a lot of money between the accommodation, the flights and the impact: care rental, airport parking. Wish we'd stayed home despite the fact, to be honest miserable British weather. & # 39;
As vacationers rushed home from Croatia, Portugal saw a dramatic increase in vacation bookings today.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced yesterday that quarantine will not be required when returning to the UK from Portugal. Therefore, tour operators expect an increase in bookings in the coming days.
Traditionally one of the most popular destinations for British vacationers, the country attracts 2.1 million visitors annually, but was banned during the lockdown.
But with the doors open and a bank holiday at the end of the month, the airlines want to take advantage of the rising demand.
Aviation data analysts Cirium reported 719 flights between the UK and Portugal before students return to school next month, with a total capacity of almost 128,000 seats.
Jet2 announced that it will offer additional flights with thousands of additional seats to meet the growing interest in traveling to Portugal.
Average prices for Faro – the airport used by holidaymakers in the Algarve – rose from just £ 35 to £ 190 in the hours following Mr Shapps' announcement.
A website showed that a BA flight ticket from London to Faro had risen from £ 90 to £ 580 in one day – claiming it had been cut from £ 594.
MailOnline's Google search also found a BA round trip from London to Faro, which departed this Saturday – the day the quarantine rule for Portugal is lifted – and returned next Saturday, costing £ 1,069.
Average prices for Faro – the airport used by holidaymakers in the Algarve – rose from just £ 35 to £ 190. Pictured: A Google price table shows how prices for flights to Faro soared on Sunday
Flights from London to Lisbon on Saturday also rose from around £ 50 to £ 181
London to Faro prices have also increased this Sunday, while flights to Lisbon, another popular city break destination, have also increased from around £ 55 to £ 185 since the announcement, according to Google.
One angry vacation hope said on Twitter: "And immediately vacation prices to Portugal are going up!"
The Yorkshire couple pays £ 800 to travel home from northern Croatia via Munich to exceed the quarantine period
Liam and Jodie, a married couple from Keighley, West Yorkshire, paid about £ 800 to travel home from northern Croatia via Munich to exceed the quarantine period after it was impossible to book a direct flight on time.
Liam and Jodie from Keighley, West Yorkshire, traveling home from Croatia via Munich to avoid quarantine
& # 39; There was no alternative. There are no flights from Pula to the UK on Fridays, only one flight from Zagreb to London, but that was obviously fully booked, ”Liam said.
"The only (other) flights available were stopovers in Spain via Ryanair, but then we would still have to quarantine," he added.
Liam, a mechanical engineer, said he recently started a new job "not to want to miss another two weeks of work".
He added that despite "the distraction of not knowing what was going to happen" they tried to make the most of their trip and viewed their visit to Munich as "a city break we got as an extra".
To meet growing demand, Jet2 announced that it had added additional flights to the country from Birmingham, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, London Stansted and Manchester.
Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said: & # 39; Customers are responding to the welcome change in government recommendations by booking their much-needed vacation in the Portuguese sun and we're responding by adding more flights and seats .
& # 39; We want our customers to enjoy their well-deserved vacation and our decision to act quickly and add even more capacity to Faro ensures they have plenty to choose from.
& # 39; With flights and vacations to Faro and Madeira, we are pleased to offer our customers two fantastic options in Portugal if they want to book their well-deserved vacation away from the dark.
& # 39; With a fantastic range of flights and vacations, not to mention fantastic deals and free kids' spots, those who want to get away can benefit from a wide choice and great value for money.
& # 39; We have been busy serving clients and independent travel agents during these uncertain times.
"Because of this, customers know they can trust us and that is our absolute focus for everyone who will travel with us – our award-winning customer service and package tours that you can trust."
However, Portuguese hotel companies desperate to fill rooms after a summer of lost revenue have kept prices low to attract sun-hungry tourists.
Only 32.6 percent of hotel rooms in the Algarve were booked in the last month. This is July worst price ever, according to the Telegraph.
A hotel in Madeira is available for £ 90 a night next week but typically costs between £ 91 and £ 146 for similar dates.
Likewise, another is only £ 84 a night compared to £ 121 to £ 151.
Travel expert Simon Calder told Good Morning Britain that prices on flights from Croatia to the UK are now "going through the roof" as people struggle to get home.
The cheapest direct service from Zagreb to Heathrow yesterday on British Airways cost £ 286 while a Croatia Airlines flight between the two airports cost £ 496.
The cheapest flight with change that would come back before 4am was £ 230 with Eurowings via Stuttgart. There were also KLM flights over Amsterdam, but that would include quarantine – with the Netherlands already removed from the list of airlifts.
A British mother vacationing in Croatia said she would not cancel her trip despite the new quarantine that is forcing her son to miss his first week of school.
Jennie Dock's 11-year-old son Cass Robertson-Dock will self-isolate when his new school starts again after Croatia was removed from the UK airlift list.
But Ms. Dock, who is on vacation with her friend Elle Mitchell, told ITV's Good Morning Britain: “We're both fortunate to be able to work from home, both remotely.
“Cass was sixth year last year so he managed to get in for about six weeks in the end, which he really enjoyed. So, yes, it's unfortunate that he will miss the first week but he is a smart boy and he will catch up, I don't worry about that. & # 39;
British Airways has booked an additional flight from Zagreb to London Heathrow with seats for £ 275.
The vacation companies Jet2.com and Jet2holidays announced that they will resume their flight and vacation program to Faro in the Portuguese Algarve from Monday
That's more than six times the BA equivalent flight on Friday in four weeks, which currently costs just £ 42. An equivalent flight on Friday two weeks from now will only cost £ 45.
Mr Calder urged people to look at flights with changes so as not to fly over Paris or Amsterdam as they would then have to be quarantined as well.
Despite the easing of some restrictions, industry leaders warned of dark times.
Christopher Snelling of the Airport Operators & # 39; Association said: & # 39; The lifting of the quarantine for Portugal is welcome, but the reintroduction of blanket quarantine measures into another tranche of nations adds to the significant and ongoing challenge for the aviation industry.
Passengers arrive at London Heathrow Airport wearing face masks this morning
On August 13th, crowds are pictured in Crikvenica on the northern Adriatic coast
& # 39; Our airports are facing pressures unimaginable six months ago and the government urgently needs to work with industry to establish regional travel corridors in low risk areas and agree financial measures to support our airports that have been going on since The pandemic started having lost over £ 2bn. & # 39;
In Portugal, coronavirus cases are down 45 percent in the past month, with 14.4 cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days – well below the government's 20 case threshold.
It comes as Mr Shapps warned vacationers "only to travel if you are satisfied with an unexpected quarantine" after he himself was caught putting Austria, Croatia and Trinidad on the UK's no-go list.
Referring to his own experience of facing a two-week quarantine when his department suddenly quarantined Spain in July, Mr Shapps warned that any airlift could be canceled at short notice.
In a tweet announcing that Croatia, Austria and Trinidad would be put on the government's 'red list' and Portugal removed, Shapps said, "Data shows we are removing Croatia, Austria and Trinidad & Tobago from our list need #coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates down.
& # 39; If you come to the UK from these destinations after 4:00 on Saturday, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
& # 39; Data also shows we can now add Portugal to the countries included in travel corridors.
“Please note that, as in all airlift countries, things can change quickly. Only travel if you are happy with an unexpected 14-day quarantine (I speak from experience!). & # 39;
The Portuguese tour guides welcomed the move as "useful for anyone traveling between Portugal and the UK".
In a tweet, the Portuguese Foreign Ministry said: “This decision is proof of the good result of intensive bilateral work.
"It provided an understanding that the situation in the country was always under control, with Portugal being considered one of the European countries with more tests, fewer deaths and fewer hospital stays."
Meanwhile consumer group Which? The change in the rules for Portugal "probably came too late to help many struggling vacation companies".
Which? Tour guide Rory Boland told the BBC that the government had "now made it clear that countries can be removed from or added to the list of travel corridors at any time".
He said, “This policy currently makes it too risky for anyone who cannot go into quarantine 14 days after their return to travel abroad anywhere.
“However, for those vacationers who wish to heed the government's warning not to make non-essential trips to Spain, France and now Croatia and Austria, it is becoming increasingly difficult to claim a refund.
He added: "Portugal's addition will likely come too late to help many struggling vacation companies that are on the verge of collapse as summer trips have already been canceled."
Following the announcement, the vacation companies Jet2.com and Jet2holidays announced that they would resume their flight and vacation program to Faro in the Portuguese Algarve from Monday.
A sign at Heathrow today warns of self-isolation if they have visited a certain country
Passengers push their luggage through arrivals at London Heathrow Airport this morning
People were waiting for planes at Split Airport in Croatia yesterday to get home quickly
Croatia, Austria and Trinidad and Tobago were put on the "red" list due to the increasing number of Covid cases.
Croatia's total over seven days – a metric closely monitored by Downing Street – has risen to 27.4 per 100,000 people.
Brits who arrive back in the UK after the 4 a.m. deadline will have to spend 14 days under stricter measures than many facing a lockdown as they are not even allowed to go outside to exercise or shop for groceries.
The Croatian ambassador to the UK said it was "regrettable" that the UK government failed to put in place regional quarantine rules instead of removing the entire country from its quarantine exemptions list.
Igor Pokaz told BBC Radio 4's Today program: “We are trying in our ongoing dialogue with the UK government about this particular quarantine measure to see if it is possible to have something more of what other countries are doing in a more nuanced approach.
“We therefore regret that the British government was unable to consider a regional approach, as in Croatia, as I said, we have observed these peaks in certain areas – for example in Zagreb in the capital and perhaps in the young one Population.
“But there were very, very few cases in Dubrovnik, its surroundings and the islands. And I purposely mention Dubrovnik and the islands as this is where most of the UK tourists go.
& # 39; And Dubrovnik has its own international airport and is of course isolated from the rest of the country.
"As I said, Germany has introduced this model and implemented measures for only two of the Croatian districts and we have 20 districts in Croatia."
What new countries have been removed from the UK's safe travel list?
Croatia, Austria and Trinidad and Tobago have been removed from the list of safe countries people can travel to without going into quarantine amid fears they could experience a second wave of Covid-19.
The move, announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Thursday evening, means people traveling from these countries will have to be isolated for two weeks if they return to the UK after 4 a.m. on Saturday.
In addition, Scotland has removed Switzerland from the list of safe travel, so anyone returning from the Alpine country to the north of the border will have to self-isolate for two weeks.
This is what it will mean for vacationers:
When do I have to isolate myself?
The new measures will take effect on Saturday, August 22nd, starting at 4 a.m. This means that travelers returning to the UK from any of these destinations will have around 36 hours to avoid quarantine.
Anyone who returns after this date will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
This applies to people returning to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the addition of Switzerland applies to people in Scotland.
Has the Safe Travel List been added anywhere?
Passengers coming to the UK from Portugal no longer need to self-isolate as they were added to the travel corridor list from 4 a.m. on Saturday.
Mr Shapps tweeted Thursday evening: "Data also shows we can now add Portugal to the countries included in the travel corridors."
Referring to his own isolation after a family vacation in Spain, Mr Shapps added, “As in all airlift countries, you should be aware that things can change quickly.
"Only travel if you are satisfied with an unexpected 14-day quarantine (I speak from experience!)."
– Why is this happening?
According to official sources, the decision to put the three countries on the quarantine list was based on a "significant change in both the level and the pace of confirmed cases".
The weekly incidence per 100,000 population for Croatia increased from 10.4 on August 12 to 27.4 on August 19 – an increase of 164%.
In Trinidad and Tobago, cases have increased in the past four weeks, with the number of cases between 100,000 people increasing 232% between August 12 and 19.
In Austria, the weekly number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants rose from 10.5 on August 13 to 20.3 on August 20, an increase of 93%.
– I have booked a vacation in a country on the list. What should I do?
The FCO does not advise UK nationals to travel to any of the countries on the quarantine list.
Anyone who decides to travel after August 22nd will have to self-isolate for two weeks.
– What about employers whose workers need to be quarantined?
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab previously said that no worker who follows quarantine instructions should be penalized by employers, including sick pay.
He said that if someone follows the law regarding quarantine and self-isolation, "they cannot be penalized".
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