UK travel bans cause Christmas chaos

By: AFP      Published: 09:55 PM, 21 Dec, 2020
UK travel bans cause Christmas chaos

The abrupt cancellation of flights in and out of the UK following the detection of a mutant strain of coronavirus left many people -- Britons and other nationals -- stranded just days before Christmas.

Here are the stories of just a few of those affected:

Terminally ill

Ewelina Macpherson, who has British and Polish nationality, was due to return to her home in Edinburgh on Tuesday after visiting her terminally ill mother in Poland, but does not know what will happen.

"Obviously, I am worried. My son has to go back to nursery after self-isolation and I want to spend Christmas with my husband," she told AFP.

Polish authorities have said they are only banning flights from the UK, not to the UK, "but I need to be able to fly back and forth".

"My mother is terminally ill. Her time is very limited," she said.

Turned back or blocked 

At Germany's Hanover airport, passengers coming off one of the last flights from Britain on Sunday evening recounted being stopped by police.

"I was outside in the rain. We could not move because we were blocked with another 70 passengers," German national Sabrina Dinkler-Stemme said.

The passengers were kept overnight and not allowed to leave the airport until they received a negative test result on Monday morning.

The terminal's officials set up camp beds to help passengers to spend the night, while similar scenes unfolded at other German airports.

Meanwhile, passengers already onboard the overnight ferry from the northeastern English port of Newcastle and the Dutch port of IJmuiden were told to disembark, Dutch media reported.

"We had already checked in and had already put all our bags in the cabins. Then we were told we needed to get off the ferry, and that it wasn't leaving after all," one Dutch passenger said.

Unexpected guest

Alison, a live-in nanny in Rome, had prepared deliveries of food for her self-isolation back home in the United Kingdom when her Christmas Eve flight was abruptly cancelled.

"At first I cried because I had built this up in my head to be a much-needed break and I have been feeling a bit homesick -- my parents are elderly and have some health problems which worry me," the 30-something Briton told AFP.

Alison, who asked that her surname not be published, had booked the trip home despite having to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival in the UK, and take a test before returning to Rome.

She said her employers had been "lovely" about her staying in Rome, "but it's awkward for them too, having an unexpected guest at what should be private family time."

My bad luck

Beth Gabriel Ware, a Briton who lives in Turkey, flew home earlier this month to surprise her parents in Kent, south-east England -- but is now stuck.

The 23-year-old said her mum's face was a picture when she turned up -- but now "it's all gone wrong!"

She is sleeping on the sofa, and is scared to go out much because of the new strain of coronavirus circulating.

"It's inhuman not to give people more notice. My boyfriend is out in Turkey, I want to get back to him," she said.

Extreme reaction

Julian Elliott, a British travel photographer based in France, is also angry after being stuck following a trip home for his grandmother's funeral.

"It's just ridiculous," he told AFP from his father's home in Salisbury, south-west England.

He has work to do back home in the Loire Valley, not to mention his two children wondering if they would see their dad for Christmas.

"It's an extreme reaction. Why don't they just test people at the airport? There are so many better ways to handle this."