Thousands make eleventh-hour dashes home as 14-day quarantine imposed on France

Tens of thousands of UK holidaymakers raced to make last-minute dashes home as quarantine restrictions were imposed on France at 4am this morning.

Roads were lined with cars and mobile homes and airports were packed on Friday after a government announcement gave tourists just over a day to avoid a two-week self-isolation period.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government had taken a ‘practical approach’ to restrictions after France reported more than 12,300 new coronavirus cases this week – the country’s highest infection rate in two months.

But the eleventh-hour move forced many people to pay inflated prices, with some airfares more than six times more expensive than normal.

British Airways was selling tickets for a flight from Paris to London Heathrow on Friday night costing £452. The same journey on Saturday could be made with the airline for just £66.

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Meanwhile, the cheapest ticket on a Eurostar train from Paris to London was £210, compared with £165 on Saturday.

A Eurotunnel Le Shuttle spokesperson said the service was fully booked, with 12,000 people attempting to book tickets in the hour after the new rules were announced on Thursday – compared with normal levels of just hundreds.

Travellers in the south of France and the Netherlands faced a struggle getting back to the UK in time as many direct fights were sold out.

Holidaymakers Stuart and Anna Buntine said they’d been forced to shell out nearly £1,000 to make it home.

Mr Buntine, 58, said: ‘I went to bed last night thinking it was all OK, woke up at 7am to find we had to get back here pretty sharpish.

‘We couldn’t get tickets, all the sites had crashed… we had to buy [Eurostar] business class tickets back today so it’s cost nearly £1,000.’

Mrs Buntine added: ‘We left here with our eyes (open) knowing that it was a possibility, so we decided we’d take that risk.’

Dyan Crowther, chief executive of the HS1 high-speed London to Channel Tunnel rail link, said it was ‘heartbreaking’ to witness cancelled family holidays and extortionate prices.

She said: ‘People want certainty, they want to know that they can go away without having to worry about what the world will look like when they return. My heart goes out to them.’

The quarantine conditions also apply to travellers returning to or visiting the UK from the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos and Aruba.

A spokeswoman for travel trade organisation Abta said the Government’s quarantine policy will ‘result in livelihoods being lost unless it can step in with tailored support for the travel industry’.

The Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England reported a significant change in Covid-19 risk in all six destinations for which quarantine restrictions are being imposed.

The Home Office said on Friday that a total of nine fines have been issued at the border since quarantine restrictions were introduced.

The department counts the number of fixed penalty notices issued by Border Force under the regulations.

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