HOLIDAYMAKERS have been warned ‘only travel if you can quarantine’ as tens of thousands of Brits face a mad scramble to get home from Croatia.
The government will implement the new restrictions from 4am tomorrow – meaning anybody travelling home after that time will have to self-isolate for two weeks.
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That means bad news for the 20,000 Brits estimated to be on holiday in the Croatia right now, and those booked to travel there over the next few weeks.
And transport secretary Grant Shapps has now warned travellers that ANY air bridge could be axed at short notice after three countries were added to the quarantine list on Thursday.
Making reference to his own mad dash home from a holiday in Spain, just hours after arriving, the MP tweeted: “Data shows we need to remove Croatia, Austria and Trinidad & Tobago from our list of #coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates DOWN.
“If you arrive in the UK after 0400 Saturday from these destinations, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
“Data also shows we can now add Portugal to those countries INCLUDED in Travel Corridors.
“As with all air bridge countries, please be aware that things can change quickly.
Only travel if you are content to unexpectedly 14-day quarantine if required
“Only travel if you are content to unexpectedly 14-day quarantine if required (I speak from experience!)”
Mr Shapps said today that he accepts it is “incredibly inconvenient” for Brits to rush home from countries recently placed on the red list.
But he told travellers to visit countries abroad with their “eyes open”.
He added: “This is a very unpredictable virus which doesn’t play ball in the way it can take off in a country.
“Anyone traveling this year will know there are risks involved.”
Mr Shapps said that all travel decisions made by the government were looked at “very carefully” and said he “sympathises” with Brits who have spent a fortune on trips abroad.
Many holidaymakers say the changes to the coronavirus travel rules will cost them as they will not be able to work while stranded in quarantine.
It also means those due to fly there will have to scrap their hols as they know they will be unable to work properly on their return.
Steve Davies, from Yeovil, Somerset, is on holiday in Drasnice, and said quarantining will cost him up to £1,200 in unpaid wages.
“Which is more than the cost of the holiday,” said the 50-year-old, who works as a production supervisor for Leonardo helicopters.
“The announcements are a shambles with little warning to return … why can’t the Government work two weeks ahead on these announcements?
“I refuse to be panicked and I will not return early: it’s safer here than where I am in the UK.”
Mr Davies is travelling on to Poland, which is exempt from the quarantine rules, on August 25 and then Britain on August 30.
According to Government rules, this means he would need to isolate for nine days on his return, taking him to 14 since leaving Croatia.
Others on holiday in Croatia were already fearing they would be left out of pocket ahead of the announcement.
Mark Farrugia tweeted: “I’m on holiday at the moment…please is you are going to make people quarantine after their holiday, give at least a weeks notice.”
Some were resigned to the fact they would now have to scrap their break in the sun over the new rules.
Many sent messages to tour operators in a bid to make a last minute switch to Portugal – which has been taken off the red list.
However, the overall feeling was one of devastation from those desperate to get away from home.
Croatia’s seven-day cumulative number of daily cases now stands at 30 per 100,000 people.
Cases reaching 20 per 100,000 people is one of the government’s main benchmarks for imposing quarantine restrictions on a country.
Croatia was bumped from the safe travel list after the World Health Organisation said the region was considered a “hotspot” for coronavirus.
Croatia escaped the worst of the first wave of the pandemic owing to swift lockdowns and a lack of tourist arrivals at the tail-end of winter.
Dr Catherine Smallwood said: “The situation in the Balkans has been a concern of ours since early June when we started to see cases increase and it’s been very much a sub-regional hotspot over the summer period.
“We really need communities to take this on board, take the adequate steps both at a country level, in terms of the basic contact tracing, case identification and isolation and testing the systems that need to be in place.
“And then where there are hotspots and increased transmission, additional targeted measures need to be brought in place very quickly to nip transmission in the bud, stop it from spreading and keep the level of transmission at controllable levels.”
However, Darija Reic, the director of the Croatian national tourist office in London insisted the region was safe.
He said: “We are confident that Croatia is still a safe place for tourists, with the majority of the coast having low numbers of infections.
“Croatian authorities are continuously monitoring and adjusting Covid-related safety measures to ensure we are controlling the virus at all times.”
Tour operators and airlines are likely to stop flights and holidays now.
This will mean they will offer a refund or credit note, while some airlines are allowing passengers to move their flights free of charge.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has updated its travel advice to advise against all but essential travel to Croatia.
The Government has pledged to take “decisive action” if necessary to contain coronavirus, including removing countries from the travel corridors list rapidly.