Canary Islands: Thousands of Britons face Christmas isolation

Canary Islands: Thousands of Britons face Christmas isolation

Britons holidaying on Spain’s Canary Islands say their Christmas plans have been thrown into jeopardy after quarantine rules were imposed.

Travellers returning to the UK will have to self-isolate for 14 days from Saturday due to rising infection rates, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

Travel giant Tui said 800 people were due to depart for the islands on Friday morning, with 5,000 there already.

The Foreign Office has yet to change its travel advice for the islands.

Without a change in travel advice, many holidaymakers may be unable to seek refunds or claim on their travel insurance policies.

The new quarantine restrictions will be in place from 04:00 GMT on 12 December.

Travellers to mainland Spain already have to isolate, but an exemption for the islands in October encouraged many to book a break in almost-guaranteed winter sun, travel expert Simon Calder told BBC Breakfast.

The Department for Transport said there had been a “sharp increase” in the number of positive coronavirus tests on the Canary Islands.

Steve Hay, from Bournemouth, arrived in Lanzarote on Thursday evening for a seven-day break with his family.

They now face cutting it short to avoid a quarantine period that could potentially run until New Year’s Eve – effectively cancelling their Christmas plans in the UK.

“How will we do our Christmas shopping?” Mr Hay said. “I think it’s shocking and doesn’t appear much thought has gone into it.

“Why is it being implemented so quick, this only gives us tomorrow to get back.

“I think it’s crazy and the Canaries cannot be looked at as a whole, each island should be rated.”

Ivor Langford from Worcestershire, who is currently at his holiday home in Lanzarote, told the BBC he now faces Christmas alone in the UK after the rule change.

His wife recently returned to the UK after her father caught Covid-19 in hospital, he said.

“I have been given less than a day to fly home before Saturday 04:00,” he added.

“I’m due to fly back on 16 December but now will have to have Christmas without my wife.”

More than 800 people are waiting to find out if their Tui holidays to Tenerife departing on Saturday morning will be cancelled, because the Foreign Office has not yet decided whether to also advise against travel to the islands.

Between 06:00 and 11:00 on Friday morning, six flights from various English airports are due to fly out to Tenerife with package holidaymakers.

If the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office advises against travel to the Canary Islands, Tui will cancel all holidays immediately as this change invalidates travel insurance.

It also expects to cancel its entire Christmas holiday schedule, a further blow to the operator which recorded losses of €3bn (£2.74bn) on Thursday.

The quarantine change comes ahead of the government’s new test-to-release programme next week, which will allow travellers arriving into England to reduce their quarantine by more than half if they pay for a Covid test after five days.

Travellers arriving into the UK will have to opt-in to the scheme on a passenger locator form, according to the government website.

These rules come into force from 15 December and the tests from private firms will cost between £65 and £120, but a list of approved providers has yet to be published.

England has also introduced a quarantine exemption for certain categories of travellers, including people making high-value business trips, sports stars and performing arts professionals.

Tui said: “If customers cannot accommodate quarantine on return, we’re allowing those booked between today and Thursday 17 December the opportunity to amend free of charge to another date or destination.”

Airline Easyjet chief executive Johan Lundgren said that the news would be “disappointing for many customers booked to travel to the Canary Islands from the UK in the coming weeks.”

Customers wishing to transfer their flights without a fee must do so within a week, he said.

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