Croatia quarantine ruling prompts scramble to get back to UK

Thousands of British holidaymakers in Croatia are trying to cut their trip short or change their plans to avoid having to quarantine for 14 days on their return home, after the Balkan country was removed from the UK government’s travel corridor list.

Simon and Briony Rea had just arrived at their hotel on the island of Brac at the start of a week-long holiday in Croatia when they heard the news on Thursday afternoon.

They immediately started to look into how they could leave before 4am on Saturday when new quarantine rules come into effect. “We are due to go to a friend’s wedding and really don’t want to let him down by being stuck isolating at home,” said Simon. “Indirect flights from Split are currently about £900 each so we are looking at getting an 11-hour ferry from Split to Ancona in Italy and spending the rest of the holiday there.

“We had read about the possibility of Croatia being taken off the list but we decided to take the risk because of the financial implications of not going.”

The couple, from London, estimate that they will lose about £750 on hotel bookings, as well as having to pay for the ferry and hotels in Italy. “We’re just frustrated that there isn’t a testing process on our return to the UK so we can avoid having to isolate. It’s ridiculous.”

According to the Croatian National Tourist Office in London, there are about 17,000 British people holidaying in Croatia at the moment, many of whom won’t get home before the deadline. British Airways has added extra flights and is now operating two each from Dubrovnik, Zagreb and Split to London on Friday 21 but availability is limited.

“We can’t go through the scrum option to get back, it would mean frantic crowds and costly flight changes and I have three children to consider, one of whom has special needs,” said David (who did not want to give his second name).

“The mismatch between how weak the UK government’s response to Covid was in March and the misplaced idea that we will control it by locking down people who have spent two weeks living in the mountains in a country with only 160 deaths is maddening. This is a such a crude and ridiculous policy. My kids will be hugely upset [at having to isolate].”

Darija Reic of the Croatia tourist office in London said the decision was a blow to tourism: “British guests are very important to us and there are certain areas that will definitely feel the impact, such as the Dubrovnik region.”

In Croatia, the weekly Covid cases per 100,000 people increased from 10.4 on 12 August to 27.4 on 19 August – a 164% rise. Croatia’s ambassador to the UK Igor Pokaz called for a more targeted approach to quaranting

, but transport secretary Grant Shapps has rejected the idea, saying it would be too difficult to implement.

The removal from the Covid-safe list of Spain at the end of July and France in mid-August caused chaos as holidaymakers rushed to get back to the UK, and many of them will struggle to get their money back, according to the editor of Which? Travel, Rory Boland.

“Many airlines continue to operate flights and refuse customers the option of a refund, then charge eye-watering fees to those who try to rebook,” he said.

Austria and Trinidad & Tobago have also been taken off the travel corridor list. Meanwhile, tour operators and hoteliers expressed their relief that holidaymakers from the UK can now travel to Portugal without having to isolate on their return.

Holiday company and Jet2holidays has increased flight capacity to Faro. Weekly services will operate from all nine of its UK bases from Monday 24 August.

Noel Josephides, chairman of Sunvil, which has sold holidays to Portugal for 39 years, said: “Portugal has been ahead of most European destinations on the Covid-19 stakes for some time, having handled its regional spikes (mostly in non-tourist areas around Lisbon) arguably better than we’ve handled ours in the UK (around Leicester, Manchester and Birmingham). I’m delighted to be able to sell this wonderful destination again.”

Paulo Duarte (director of operations of the Memmo group, which has two hotels in Lisbon and one in the Algarve) said, “It comes late but it still means a lot.”

Hallie Robinson, owner of Fazenda Nova Country House in the eastern Algarve added that bookings have been “flying in” since the announcement. “There are a lot of happy people in Portugal today.”

Additional reporting on Portugal by Celia Pedroso.


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