Coronavirus: 'We're packing frantically' after France quarantine rule change

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Thousands of holidaymakers have seen their plans thrown into chaos after UK quarantine measures were altered to include France and the Netherlands from Saturday morning. Here are some of their tales.

'We're packing frantically'

Image source, Scott Cuthbert
Image caption,
Scott and Tracy Cuthbert have been on holiday in France with their daughter Milly

Scott and Tracy Cuthbert, from the village of Bloxham in Oxfordshire, say cutting their holiday in the Loire Valley short by six days was an "easy decision to make for us because we both need to work".

Scott, a sales manager for a glazing company, was furloughed for 10 weeks but business has been going well since he returned to work - so he can't afford to miss out. And Tracy wants to make sure she's back for the start of term for the private school she works at.

The couple and their daughter Milly, 16, should have been coming back next Thursday, but began "frantically packing" and searching for a ferry to bring them home in time after they heard news of the rule changes. They had been on holiday with three other families who are also all coming home early.

"It's ruined everyone's holiday and cut it short," Scott says. "Why 14-day quarantine when parts of the UK are probably more badly affected? I am very frustrated."

The family booked themselves onto a ferry for Friday afternoon, only to realise they wouldn't make it to the port in time - so have now booked another ferry, due to leave Calais at 20:30 BST.

"We're driving up now and the sat nav says we'll have about an hour's leeway," Scott says from the car.

Milly is already worrying about her GCSE results after the news about people being downgraded for A-levels - and is now concerned she could miss the first day back at school if the family have to self-isolate, her father adds.

Image source, Scott Cuthbert
Image caption,
The Cuthbert family and the friends they were holidaying with all had to pack up quickly this morning

'I'm a teacher and will miss term starting'

Katie is a teacher in London on holiday in a remote part of France, in a private villa. She says she and her children will miss the beginning of the school term because they are a 12-hour drive to the Channel crossing "so we can't make it back in time".

Katie says she checked the government website and signed up for any alerts to keep an eye on changes to the rules. "We knew there may be a risk but also we couldn't get a refund on our holiday," she says.

"Why did they not give this call at the beginning of the week so we could have travelled back? Why were they still advising it was OK to travel to France?"

"We have done everything the government has asked of us for months but I really think they need to treat us all with a little respect and give us time to organize ourselves."

'We thought coming here was low risk'

Image source, Laurence Dolman
Image caption,
Laurence Dolman with his nine-year-old son Henry, and daughters Bethan, seven, and Eliza, three

Laurence Dolman and his family, from Sheffield, have enjoyed a week of ice creams and sunshine at a Eurocamp in Wassenaar, in the Netherlands. Their ferry home will arrive in Hull at 08:30 on Saturday - four hours after the rules come into effect.

Before the pandemic the family had spent about a year and a half planning a big trip around Europe for this summer, and they've lost a lot of money since it was cancelled. So they decided to treat themselves to a smaller summer holiday, and carefully picked the Netherlands as what they thought was a "low-risk" place to visit compared with other European countries.

While Laurence, 41, and his wife Michelle, 40, have discussed "crazy ideas" about possibly being let off the self-isolation rules, due to "possibly being in British naval territory" by the cut-off time of 04:00, they have "no regrets" about having to quarantine.

"We deserved this holiday," Laurence says, citing how difficult it has been home-schooling his children during lockdown.

Media caption,
British holiday maker at Calais: "We cancelled our holiday to come home"

Asked if they considered trying to get home early, he adds: "No, we're just going to soak up our last bit of holiday."

"My wife and I have another week's leave before we are due to return to work. I'm fortunate that I'm able to work from home but as my wife is a social worker, it's a bit more of a problem for her".

'Who will look after Mum?'

Image source, Karl Simpson
Image caption,
Karl Simpson isn't rushing back from his holiday in south-east France

Karl Simpson went to his second home in the French hamlet of Vion knowing "full well" he might have to quarantine on his return home to Southampton on 20 August.

But now that it's been confirmed, he is worried about arranging care for his 90-year-old mother, who has dementia.

"There is no time now to rearrange care provision if I am absent," he says. "Will the government help? Will I be breaking quarantine rules if I visit Mum, or do the [previous lockdown exemptions for carers] still apply? I've arranged care for the time I'm away but sustaining that care beyond the 20th will be difficult."

Karl, a 68-year-old scientist who has advised the government on vaccines and pandemic planning, is hoping the same exemptions for carers will be in place as when the UK was in full lockdown in March - but "there's no clear guidance on that yet".

He says he agrees with the principle of quarantining after a foreign holiday, "but it should be applied intelligently".

'Why couldn't we have had 72 hours' notice?

Tom Duffell, who runs a small business, decided to cut short his family holiday to Nice by four days and booked a last minute flight home.

Image caption,
"An extra two weeks off of work is just not doable," says Tom

"We were enjoying a nice cocktail last night and suddenly a news flash pops in and a scramble to book flights," he told the BBC from the airport.

"I think we've managed to get my wife and one of my sons on one flight and myself and my other son on another flight.

"We've had to spend about £800 because we just can't afford to take two extra weeks off of work," added Tom, whose wife works as an NHS nurse and volunteered in an intensive care ward.

He said the government should have given tourists already in France longer to prepare. "They could have said you know give tourists 72 hours to return to the UK, rather than just over 24 hours and there's this mad scramble," he said.

"Instead we're all packed into the airport. There's huge queues, social distancing's gone out of the window."

"We're all scrambling on to the same flight, the flights are all full. Surely that's not going to help public health, that's just going to make things worse."

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