Mum paid £900 to change Portugal flight and avoid quarantine that never came

A Mum who splurged nearly £1,000 on changing her family’s flights home from Portugal to avoid a quarantine that did not materialise has accused the Government of ‘moving the goalposts left, right and centre’.

Kelly, from Birmingham, said she paid Jet2 £900 to move her flights home from Faro from Saturday to Friday in anticipation of quarantine measures being reintroduced.

But today the UK Government said those returning to England from Portugal would not have to quarantine – despite widespread speculation amid a rise in cases, and the Scottish and Welsh governments forcing returning holidaymakers from Portugal to self-isolate.

Kelly, 45, said the situation was ‘absolutely disgusting’, after she spent the money to ensure her three children would not miss out on two weeks of school.

She said: ‘It’s cost us a lot more money and it’s money we didn’t need to spend now.

‘We’ve lost an extra night in our villa – we won’t get that back – we’ve got a hire car, so we’re taking that back a day early. It’s the knock-on effects as well.’

Kelly said she and her husband took the decision to change their flights after monitoring the seven-day infection rate for Portugal, which reached 23 per 100,000 on Wednesday – above the Government’s stated quarantine threshold of 20.

She said: ‘The Government just change the goalposts left, right and centre at the moment. It’s embarrassing.

‘They don’t make things clear enough. They say they need the rate under 20 and it’s gone above that this week, so why wouldn’t you think it would go on the quarantine list tonight?

‘You can guarantee if I hadn’t have booked those flights on Monday, that air bridge would have been removed tonight.’

Mr Shapps said other factors, including the extent of testing and whether outbreaks are ‘contained’, are taken into account when considering changes to the list.

Kelly said she could not risk having to quarantine as her youngest child, who is four, is starting school for the first time next week, while her other two children, 11 and seven, are starting new schools.

‘There’s no way it would be fair on them two weeks later to go in when everyone else has already started to settle,’ she said.

In previous weeks, the Government has announced changes to its exemption list on Thursday with changes coming into force at 4am on Saturday, leading to a scramble for passengers to return in time to avoid having to quarantine.

Kelly believes it would be fairer on holidaymakers if they were given more time to change their plans.

‘It’s always with the Government,’ she said. 

‘They do the announcement on a Thursday night and then you’ve got til 4 o’clock on a Saturday morning to get home, which they know you can’t do.

‘They don’t give you enough time to do anything. They could have said at the start of the week ‘the numbers are going up but we’re going to sit on it for another seven to 10 days’ but they don’t do that.

‘It’s like, “we make the decision at five o’clock on a Thursday night and that’s it: bang, get home’’. That’s where it’s wrong.’

Although Portugal remained on England’s exemption list, the Welsh Government announced on Thursday that those returning to Wales from Portugal, Gibraltar and seven Greek islands would need to quarantine.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, passengers arriving from Portugal or French Polynesia will have to self isolate for two weeks as of Saturday, the Scottish Justice Secretary said.

Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: ‘Days of speculation around this announcement meant many people rushed to pay extortionate prices for flights back to England to avoid having to quarantine on their return – only to now find out there was no need.

‘The government knows this, and yet it continues to offer no clarity around how these decisions are made, all while ignoring the growing evidence suggesting this system is not working.

‘If the government is serious about letting international travel resume while prioritising public health, a major reassessment of its approach is needed.’

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