British holidaymakers have endured long last-minute drives and forked out thousands of pounds in a bid to return home from Croatia before the imposition of new travel quarantine rules.
From 4am on Saturday travellers arriving to the UK from the Mediterranean country will have to self-isolate for 14 days after a spike in coronavirus cases led to the British government removing Croatia from its safe travel list.
New restrictions have also come into place for tourists returning from Austria and Trinidad and Tobago, joining Spain and France. Travellers arriving from Aruba, Monaco, Malta, the Netherlands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Andorra, the Bahamas and Belgium must also self-isolate.
At London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 on Friday evening, British Airways flights arriving from the Croatian city of Dubrovnik and the capital Zagreb were among the last to arrive in the UK before the quarantine deadline.
Adam and Katie Marlow, from Buckinghamshire, were forced to drive a hire car three hours from the coastal city of Zadar to Zagreb to catch a new flight home instead of returning on Saturday.
The couple decided to come back earlier than planned due to 33-year-old Katie’s pregnancy and her need to return to work on Monday.
They said their new flights costs around £300, while the care hire was another £100.
Asked about the government’s handling of the travel corridor rules, Adam, 37, who works for a financial company, said: “With most of the changes I support everything they do, I would say though that they should publish the criteria for where the cases are.
“Then we could have kept have an eye on it… and we could have maybe made a different decision and maybe an earlier decision and it might have cost us a bit less money.”
Katie, a sales manager, who is due in October, added: “Completely understand why they are doing it, but it would be good to have a bit more warning, because we only had 24 hours notice. That’s all we had.”
But Steve Laws, 53, a company director from Thame in Oxfordshire branded the government’s actions as “shambolic”.
He spent around £2,000 to return from his holiday eight days early with his wife and three children.
“There are zero checks at immigration,” he said on Friday night.
“The process was a complete farce.
“We are obeying the government’s rules in good faith and there’s absolutely no evidence the government is monitoring in any way who is coming into the country,” he claimed.
Thomas Maguire, 63, a sales manager from Northern Ireland, was due to fly back on Sunday, but returned to beat the quarantine deadline due to the impact it would have on his family.
He branded the rule changes as a “complete shambles”, saying he had spent nearly £400 on his flight he hoped to recoup through insurance.
“Why they decided to do it the way they have done it, it’s not in support of any scientific evidence… that I’m safer today than I would be tomorrow,” he said.
Meanwhile Cristiano Torti, 41, spent around £1,500 to fly his wife and two young children home six days earlier than planned.
He said the family had lost around £500 of the original return flight bookings, but they had not wanted to quarantine for two weeks at home.
“It would have been a nightmare, I have two young children that drive me crazy at the best of times,” he joked.
“My wife and I both work from home, so it would have very difficult with them at home.
“Another consequence would have been my eldest child missing a bit of school.”
Cristiano, a developer from Oxfordshire, added: “Had we not had children I think we might have just waited it out… but with two young children at home it wasn’t feasible.”
He said he had been aware of the risk of travel rules changing, but added: “I do wonder though if the Government could be a bit more selective.
“So for example I understand that there are certain hotspots in Croatia where the case numbers were quite high, so perhaps they could have selective on those travelling from those specific hotspots.
“On the other hand people would have found a way around that.”
He added: “We’ve lost a lot of of money, between the accommodation, the flights, and the knock-on effects: the car hire, the airport parking, I kind of wish we’d stayed home to be honest despite the miserable British weather.”