Holidaymakers scramble to return to UK as new coronavirus quarantine restrictions imposed

People at an airport Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

British holidaymakers are racing to return home to avoid quarantine after Croatia, Austria and Trinidad & Tobago were removed from the safe travel list.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that travellers from those countries to the UK would be required to self-isolate for 14 days - with the restrictions coming into effect from Saturday at 4am.

As a result British tourists have been forced to pay hundreds of pounds for alternative routes back from Croatia, after finding affordable flights home before Saturday’s quarantine deadline almost impossible to come by.

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks ahead of the changes coming into force:

Portugal was given travel corridor status, meaning that Brits will not have to quarantine on their return to the UK from the country.

Tourists have faced steep prices to try and be back in time before the rules come into force.

Liam and Jodie, a couple from Keighley, West Yorkshire, paid about £800 to travel home from northern Croatia via Munich, in order to beat the quarantine deadline, after finding it impossible to book a direct flight in time.

"There wasn’t an alternative. There are no flights from Pula to the UK on Fridays, only a flight from Zagreb to London runs, but obviously that was fully booked," Liam said.

"The only (other) flights available were with stops in Spain through Ryanair, but then we would have to quarantine anyway," he added.

Liam, a mechanical assembly engineer, said he had started a new job recently so "didn’t want to miss another two weeks work".

Figures released by Department for Transport (DfT) indicate that the weekly incidence (cases) per 100,000 for Croatia increased from 10.4 on August 12 to 27.4 on August 19, a 164% increase.

  • Grant Shapps says coronavirus rates in Croatia tripled in a week

Over the same period, Trinidad and Tobago saw a 232% increase increase in weekly incidence per 100,000, while Austria had a 93% increase between August 13 and August 20 (from 10.5 per 100,000, to 20.3).

In Scotland, travellers from Switzerland will also be required to quarantine for a fortnight on their return to the country.

In the UK, the reproductive rate of coronavirus infection, R number, has risen to between 0.9 and 1.1, according to the government's scientific advisory group (SAGE).

People in Terminal 2 arrivals at London Heathrow. Credit: PA

The data shows it may have tipped above 1.0 in London, the North West and South West regions of England, meaning the spread of the virus could now be increasing rather than decreasing.

Latest figures also reveal that less than a third of people in England being tested for coronavirus in the wider population are receiving their results within 24 hours.

The latest data on the NHS Track and Trace programme show that 60.5% of people who were tested for Covid-19 in the week ending August 12 at a regional site or mobile testing unit, a so-called “in-person” test, received their result within 24 hours.

Of those tested that week at a satellite test centre only 1.2% received their results within 24 hours while just 3.8% of people who used a home testing kits got results within 24 hours.