COVID travel chaos leaves Brits stranded for Christmas

FRANKFURT: Police escort a group of passengers from the airport’s COVID-19 testing center to their gate at Frankfurt International Airport in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, yesterday, amid the ongoing novel coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. – AFP

ROME: Alison is normally an optimistic person but she cried when her Christmas Eve flight home was cancelled with just a few days’ notice. “I had built this up in my head to be a much-needed break and I have been feeling a bit homesick,” said the 30-something Briton, who works as a live-in nanny in Rome. She is one of many left stranded when countries around the world slapped travel bans on the UK after its admission that an infectious new strain of COVID-19 was spreading out of control.

Alison, who asked that her surname not be published, had booked the trip home despite having to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival in the UK, and take a test before returning to Rome. “It was still worth it for me to see my family for a couple of days. My parents are elderly and have some health problems which worry me,” she said. She is now resigned to staying in Italy, and accepts her situation could be worse. “My employers have been lovely-they even offered to find someone to drive me back!” she said. “But it’s awkward for them too, having an unexpected guest at what should be private family time.”

My bad luck
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new restrictions Saturday, blaming the quick spread of the new COVID variant-a decision that swiftly triggered a wave of travel bans. There were chaotic scenes at German airports as arrivals on the last flights from Britain were stopped and held while they were tested for coronavirus.

Many other European nations also brought in flight bans, as well as countries from Hong Kong to India, Israel to Turkey. Beth Gabriel Ware, a Briton who lives in Turkey, flew home earlier this month to surprise her parents in Kent, south-east England-but is now stuck. “It’s all gone wrong!” the 23-year-old told AFP by telephone.

“I hadn’t been in the UK for about 10 months, because I was so scared of this happening. I thought it was safe. “It’s just my bad luck.” While accepting that travelling in a global pandemic brings its risks, she is annoyed at how quickly the restrictions were brought in. “It’s inhuman not to give people more notice. My boyfriend is out in Turkey, I want to get back to him,” she said.

Extreme reaction
Julian Elliott, a British travel photographer based in France, is also angry after being stuck following a trip home for his grandmother’s funeral. “It’s just ridiculous,” he told AFP from his father’s home in Salisbury, south-west England. “It’s an extreme reaction. Why don’t they just test people at the airport? There are so many better ways to handle this.”

Ewelina Macpherson, who has British and Polish nationality, is due to fly home to Edinburgh from Poland today and still holds out hope she will make it. So far, she has not heard from the airline and Polish authorities have said they are only banning flights from the UK, not to the UK. “My mother is terminally ill. Her time is very limited,” she told AFP. But “everything is up in the air”. – AFP

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