Thousands of British holidaymakers in Mexico are scrambling to get home after travel restrictions changed at short notice.
From 4am on Sunday, those returning home from Mexico will have to quarantine in a designated hotel for ten days.
The cost of a flight back to Britain was being sold for between £2,000 and £4,000 yesterday as many tried to beat the deadline.
Pictured: Claudia Rattray talks to BBC via video alongside her daughters. Claudia and her two daughters arrived in Mexico city today to learn the country had been upgraded to the red list
There are between 5,000 and 6,000 British holidaymakers in Mexico currently.
In a further blow, the cost of hotel quarantine will increase from August 12, with the price for single adult travellers rising from £1,750 to £2,285 and a second adult paying £1,430 – more than double the current rate of £650.
One couple have been forced to cut their honeymoon from two weeks to two days.
Student Joe Coward, 29, said: ‘We feel… incredibly sad and frustrated that the time that should’ve been spent enjoying being newlyweds has been ruined.’
British Airways said its teams had been ‘working through the night to arrange as many additional seats out of Mexico as possible to help get Britons home’.
But there is unlikely to be enough seats for all those desperate to return as is the case of trust officer Claudia Rattray.
Ayo Faley (left), a call handler of NHS Test and Trace in London, arrived in Cancun, Mexico, on Thursday morning for her holiday, and plans to continue her trip as planned and pay for quarantine when she returns to the UK. Aaron (right) is relocating his family to Edinburgh in late August and will now have to pay for them all to quarantine on arrival
Mrs Rattray, 44, told of ‘shock and devastation’ after landing in Mexico to discover the country had been placed on the red list while she was flying.
She and her daughters Ivanna, 15, and Summer, 14, had travelled from their home in Jersey in order to visit family.
She said: ‘My husband spoke to British Airways to see if we were able to get flights for tonight or tomorrow… and there’s no seats available, nothing.’
NHS worker Ayo Faley, 24, also only discovered she had just three days left to return home to avoid quarantine after landing in Cancun yesterday.
She said she was ‘absolutely distraught’ but plans to complete her holiday. She asked: ‘How are [the Government] planning to help individuals who have found themselves in a situation like this?’
Claire, 30, from south London, said: ‘I had access to the Wifi so I found out in mid air.
‘I just wanted to grab the tannoy and tell everyone because I could see all these families looking forward to their holiday and it was obvious they didn’t know.
‘It’s crazy the lack of notice. I had no inkling Mexico was about to go on the red list.’
Another tweeted: ‘Landing in Mexico to find out it’s been added to the red list whilst I was up in the air, has got to be one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced.’
Those who have received both doses have unrestricted entry – meaning they do not have to quarantine or provide a negative test result – when travelling to Germany, France, Spain, Latvia, Romania and Georgia. But those who are not double-jabbed are still subject to some regulations upon arrival and, in the cases of Germany and Slovakia, can be denied entry
The price of the only direct flight from Mexico City to London before Mexico moves to the red list has soared to a staggering £6,878
Father-of-two David Hing, 40, arrived in Mexico with his wife and children aged four and seven on July 31. They were supposed to stay until August 21 – five days before the travel list is looked at again.
Mr Hing told MailOnline: ‘We knew the risks and while at the moment it seems like a bad dream and is very stressful and I’ve been up all night looking at alternative options, we are just going to try to enjoy the holiday.
‘It broke my heart when my two little ones said they wanted to stay on holiday and would lend us money if we needed it.
‘The notice period doesn’t really give long enough to make changes especially when it’s hard to get through and talk to anyone at the airlines.
‘The images of the food and hotels do not seem like they are worth the cost so that’s why we are going to try and fly back somewhere else first. I feel sorry for the people who were already on the flight from the UK and hope they can make alternative arrangements.’
A young couple cut short their honeymoon in Mexico from two weeks to two days, after they discovered the new restrictions upon landing in Mexico early on Thursday morning.
Joe Coward, 29, said: ‘Basically we touched down to find that our two-week honeymoon, which had already been rearranged several times, was going to be a two-day visit. We’ve arranged a flight for tomorrow and will be spending today getting ready to turn right around and go home.’
Mexico is in the grip of a third wave of Covid and on Wednesday another 611 deaths were reported – taking the total number of deaths due to the virus to 242,547.
Another 611 deaths were also reported and the country has recorded a total of 2,901,094 infections and 242,547 deaths.
The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher, and separate data published recently suggested the actual death toll is at least 60% above the confirmed figure.
- Seven European countries: Austria, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia will turn green from Sunday 4am.
- India, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will switch from red to amber, meaning arrivals from those countries will no longer have to spend 11 nights at pricey quarantine hotels;
- But Mexico, Georgia and the French overseas territories of La Reunion and Mayotte are joining the red list. Up to 6,000 Brits are on holiday in Mexico and now scrambling to get back this weekend to avoid quarantine hotels – with not enough seats to get them home;
- Hotel quarantine costs are to soar to more than £200 a night from a week today. From next Thursday, the price will jump to £2,285 for a single person. Additional adults and teenagers will be charged £1,430 – more than double the current £650 rate;
The decision to place Mexico on the red list also reflects worries about a new variant which originated in Colombia and which has concerned British scientists.
Passengers arriving from Mexico City at Heathrow Terminal 5 today slammed the new rules.
Leidy Corrales, 35, a dental assistant, who was travelling back to Switzerland from Playa de Carmen in Mexico, said: ‘I’m travelling back to Geneva with my two children Joshua and Carla and my husband.
‘Putting Mexico on the red list is not logical because when you go there, everything is normal, they are taking all the same protections – masks, hand sanitisation and social distancing.
‘The quarantine costs are just unreasonable – I think when people go on holiday, they should just have to do two tests and only quarantine if it’s positive.
‘Mexico is a tourist hotspot and people here like going to hot places, but the government doesn’t want people to go on holiday, they want to control them.
‘It’s like a dictatorship of security in a democracy, because they keep changing the rules and no-one can afford that.’
Her husband Denys added: ‘We’re so happy to have been able to enjoy our holiday without having to pay for a hotel on the way back, thank God.’
Passengers arriving from Mexico City at London’s Heathrow Terminal 5 today slammed the new rules, which come into effect on Sunday
Amy Perez, 39, a marketing director from Putney, south west London, has been travelling around Mexico with her family
Sofia and Gabriella Martinez were among the many passengers to arrive at Terminal 5 at Heathrow today from Mexico
Leidy Corrales, Denys Corrales, Carla Corrales and Joshua Corrales were also among the arrivals earlier today
Changing travel rules: What you need to know
There have been more changes to the rules for international travel, with some popular destinations climbing the ladder to the green list and others sliding down on to the red.
The Government has also hiked the price of hotel quarantine, meaning a trip to a red list country is a pricey affair.
Here is the state of play for your summer holidays.
Is there any good news?
Seven countries will be added to England’s green travel list from 4am on Sunday, the Government announced on Wednesday.
Anyone returning from Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will no longer need to quarantine on arrival.
France has also lost its confusing ‘amber plus’ status, which meant all travellers and not just those who are not fully vaccinated had to self-isolate for 10 days upon return.
Our nearest neighbour had been in a category all by itself because of concerning levels of the beta variant of Covid-19 there.
Is that it?
Sadly yes, but it just got slightly easier to visit India, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as they have been downgraded from the red to the amber list, meaning arrivals will no longer have to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel.
There are currently 24 countries on the green list, including the popular holiday destinations of Barbados, Croatia and Malta – unfortunately 16 of these are on the ‘green watch list’ meaning they could be suddenly be shunted up to amber.
Australia and New Zealand are both unambiguously green – unfortunately neither are welcoming British travellers at the moment.
Has anyone joined the red list?
Yes – Mexico, Georgia and the French overseas territories of La Reunion and Mayotte are joining the red list.
If you have a holiday to one of those destinations already booked and want to press ahead, bear in mind the cost for solo travellers in a quarantine hotel in England will be ramped up from £1,750 to £2,285 from August 12.
The charge for an additional adult sharing a room will more than double from £650 to £1,430 to ‘better reflect the increased costs involved’, the Government said.
Is my trip to Spain safe?
There were fears in the travel industry that Spain – the most popular overseas destination for UK holidaymakers – could be added to England’s red list.
The Government announced it would keep its amber status, but urged travellers arriving in the UK from Spain to take a PCR test for the mandatory pre-departure test ‘as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country’.
Many travellers have been relying on the cheaper lateral flow test kits which are less reliable than PCRs.
Things keep changing – what do I have to do when I get home again?
There are different rules for countries on the red, amber and green lists that also differ according to a traveller’s vaccination status.
Passengers to England returning from a red list country must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test before departure and must book a hotel quarantine package including two Covid-19 tests even if they have had both jabs.
They must also complete a passenger locator form.
If you have come from an amber list country, you need proof of a negative test before travel and those who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate 10 days upon arrival and take a PCR test on day two and day eight.
You might be able to get out of quarantine early if you pay for a private PCR test to be taken on day five under the Test to Release scheme.
Those with two vaccines only need to take a PCR test on day two of their arrival and can skip self-isolation – the same rules apply to those who are under the age of 18 regardless of their vaccination status.
Anyone returning from a green list country need only have proof of a negative Covid-19 test before travel, fill in a passenger locator form and take a test on day two after arrival.
Do these changes apply elsewhere in the UK?
The devolved nations have control over their own amber, red and green lists of countries as well as the rules around quarantine upon return, and the recent changes have attracted criticism from some quarters.
The Welsh Government is still advising against ‘all but essential’ travel abroad, and those who have been to a red list country cannot even enter until they have completed 10 days of quarantine in England or Scotland first.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Welsh Government said: ‘We have long called for a clearer system of rules regarding international travel.
‘The ad-hoc nature of the decisions made by the UK Government on the issue does little to instil confidence or provide clarity for travellers.
‘We continue to advise against all but essential travel abroad because of the continuing risk of infection, including with new variants of coronavirus which may not respond to our vaccines.
‘We will consider the latest changes announced by the UK Government.’
Amy Perez, 39, a marketing director from Putney, south west London, who has been travelling around Mexico with her family, said: ‘It’s inconvenient and expensive and there seems to be an entire industry surrounding Covid testing.
‘We were on holiday for two weeks and are really chuffed that we don’t have to quarantine for 10 days.
‘We would have been locked up in a hotel with these two little monsters – Maxi, 18 months, and Emilia, who just turned four yesterday.’
Her husband Jorge said: ‘The government wants people to get vaccinated, but then people don’t see the benefits.
‘It would have made more sense for us to take the fine rather than shell out thousands of pounds, not be able to work and be locked up with our children.’
Alejandro Seama, 42, a filmmaker from London, said: ‘I think it’s terrible and stupid, because it seems they just want rich people to be able travel.
‘Look at my dad, he’s 72, he’s been double vaccinated, he’s absolutely fine, but for some reason they don’t accept his vaccines here.
‘I had to spend £600 on mandatory Covid tests just to get my parents here.
‘If the rules had already changed, they would not have been able to visit and I would have never left.
‘I had no clue that Mexico was going on the red list, but thank God we came back today.’
Returning from Mexico after the deadline will see Britons face a steep hotel quarantine bill after the government raised the price to ‘reflect increased costs involved’.
A single person will have to stump up £2,285 from next Thursday during their isolation – while additional adults and teenagers will be charged £1,430 – more than double the current £650 rate.
The price for children aged five to 12 will remain at £325, while under-fives will continue to stay for free.
It means that, for a family of four with two teenage children, the cost will jump from £3,700 to a staggering £6,575 – a rise of 78 per cent.
Mr Coward said if the couple do not receive a refund from British Airways for their holiday, based near Cancun, they will be ‘several thousand pounds out of pocket’.
He said staying is not an option due to the cost of quarantine hotels – which from August 12 will rise to £2,285 for a solo traveller, plus an extra £1,430 for additional adults sharing a room.
Ayo Faley, a call handler for NHS Test and Trace in London, also landed in Cancun on Thursday morning but she plans to stay for her holiday as planned and pay for quarantine.
She is returning on August 11 so will pay the lower rate of £1,750, but said she is ‘absolutely distraught’.
The 24-year-old said: ‘I only found out (travel restrictions had changed) the minute I was able to connect to wifi at the airport… I went into a state of panic.
‘(I tried) to locate other Brits and see whether they knew and what their next plan of action was… you could see the look of confusion, fear and regret all in their faces.
‘I am absolutely distraught… I’ve decided to just stay and enjoy the time here… I’ll just have to face the consequences when I arrive.’
Ms Faley works from home and had planned to do so on her return from Cancun, but said she will not be able to access her equipment in quarantine.
She added: ‘How are (the Government) planning to help individuals who have found themselves in a situation like this?
‘Leaving the UK thinking their country of destination was safe to then land and find out they better return ASAP or risk being stuck in a hotel for 11 days.’
Aaron, who did not wish to share his second name, is relocating his family to Edinburgh in late August and will now have to pay for them all to quarantine on arrival.
The 43-year-old arrived in Mexico in early July to witness the birth of his son, Aviv, and his wife, who is from Sinaloa, had her UK visa approved on July 28.
‘(Aviv) was due to be born July by C-section, but they brought the date forward, so I arrived in the airport at 3am and just made it to the hospital before my wife went to surgery,’ Aaron told PA.
Aaron is a self-employed data and audiovisual engineer and said he ‘can’t quantify’ how much quarantining will cost his business.
‘I have previously taken out a bounce-back loan to keep my business afloat,’ he added.
‘I have no idea why I should have to pay to isolate in a hotel when I’ve had both (Astrazeneca) vaccinations in Edinburgh, proof of vaccination, took a test on my way here and will take one on arrival in Scotland.’
James Dean, 38, from Bournemouth had already spent £8,000 on a fortnight in Cancun with wife Rebecca and their four children Lilly, 16, Jack, 13, Isabella, nine, and Fred, six.
The office manager told the Mirror: ‘That has just shocked me. I’m gutted to be honest.
‘I’m going have to pay for us all to go in to quarantine as well. I’m still digesting it. I’m just gobsmacked.’
John Soones, 62, from south west London, was travelling to Mexico with his wife and their 18 year old daughter.
He said: ‘It’s just incredible. It’s terrible to get no notice that this is likely to happen and no time to change plans.’
In more positive news, it was announced that double-jabbed tourists returning from France will be spared quarantine from Sunday and seven European countries including Germany and Norway were added to the green list of destinations.
Spain has also been spared being given red status – potentially forcing thousands into £2,285-a-stay quarantine hotels – but the Government is urging travellers to take a PCR test before they fly home from the Iberian country.
Queues at St Pancras International this morning as France was opened up both ways for British tourists and people jumped on the Eurostar
Experts are predicting that there will be a flurry of bookings for France (St Pancras today) but there is already a battle for accommodation with French staycationers in particular
Grant Shapps said today that people can travel without ‘looking over their shoulders’ for the next three weeks as countries will not move lists ‘unless something exceptional and unexpected happens’. But the Transport Secretary added that full vaccination for travel will be a feature for Britons ‘forever more’ and admitted that countries could turn red again by the end of the month.
Tens of thousands more Britons are now expected to head to France for August – although tourism chiefs have warned millions more Frenchmen are staying in the country this summer so there is serious a lack of accommodation if the traveller is without a second home.
There is a particular shortage of gites, camp sites and hotel rooms in the south of the country, especially near beach resorts such as Biarritz, Narbonne, Île de Ré and Saint-Tropez, while experts have said there are much larger numbers of tourists from Holland, Belgium and Germany in the country this year.
Not wearing a face mask on the Tube should be a CRIMINAL offence says Sadiq Khan
Sadiq Khan has said that failing to wear a face mask on the Tube should become a criminal offence.
The London Mayor has been pushing the the government to allow Transport for London (TfL) to impose a by-law requiring face coverings on the capital’s transport network.
Since the easing of restrictions on July 19 ‘Freedom Day’, passengers have only been required to wear a covering as a ‘condition of carriage’ rather than a legal requirement.
This means TfL staff can tell non-compliant customers to leave a bus or train but are powerless to impose fines.
But Mr Khan now wants a bye-law put in place to effectively bring back the rule that was dropped on July 19.
The rule change would also mean British Transport Police officers could be used to enforce it.
Speaking to the BBC’s Newscast podcast Mr Khan said: ‘We are trying to lobby the Government to allow us to bring in a bye-law, so it will be the law again, so we can issue fixed penalty notices and we can use the police service and BTP to enforce this.’
Austria, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia will all move to the quarantine-free tier at the end of the weekend, in a huge boost for those looking to book a late summer getaway on the continent.
But while there is no quarantine people will still have to take a negative test before returning and a PCR test on day two back in the UK.
Meanwhile, the status of India, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will switch from red to amber, meaning arrivals from those countries will no longer have to spend 11 nights at pricey quarantine hotels.
While Spain avoided joining them, those flying back will soon face higher testing costs after ministers urged holidaymakers to take a PCR for the mandatory pre-departure test, rather than the cheaper lateral flow alternatives, ‘as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country’.
With the guidance being advice, rather than law, many travellers may feel entitled to refuse to take the gold-standard test, which can cost as much as £175 per person.
French tourism chiefs have welcomed the news that Britons can more freely come and go from Sunday – especially because Britons are by far the biggest spenders in the country but only around ten per cent of the usual number of UK tourists are in the country this summer.
But in the past month Mr Macron has enforced a ‘high alert’ covid-19 level hit in 37 departments in France because of rising cases of the Delta variant and increasingly busy hospitals.
In Occitanie, in south-west France, a ‘white’ alert has been imposed meaning medics on holiday can be forced to return to work because of increasingly packed covid wards.
Changes to the traffic light system are a ‘positive step forward’ but the Government needs to make faster progress in opening up international travel, industry experts have warned.
Four countries are being removed from England’s red list as part of the latest update to the international travel system, while seven more, including Germany are being added to the green list.
It has also been confirmed that arrivals from France will no longer need to self-isolate, aligning the nation with other countries on the amber list, from which arrivals only need to quarantine at home if they are not fully vaccinated.
Scotland and Northern Ireland have followed England in introducing the same travel relaxations.
However, the changes have attracted criticism from the Welsh Government which has continued to advise against ‘all but essential’ travel.
Confirmation that France is joining the amber list is ‘positive’ especially during the ‘critical’ school holiday period, said Mark Tanzer, head of Abta, the travel association.
But he warned the Government is ‘failing to capitalise fully on the success of the vaccine rollout’ with a ‘very cautious’ approach to the green list and ‘failure to relax restrictions on travel, including requirements for multiple tests even when visiting low risk destinations.’
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said the extension of the green list is ‘a positive step forward’ but warned that the UK remains ‘a long way off a full and meaningful restart of international travel’.
Covid cases in the UK and France look set to pass each other in the coming days as a wave of delta cases in Britain drops while it is on the rise across the Channel
Tim Alderslade, boss of Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered carriers, described the announcement as ‘another missed opportunity’.
He added that the travel industry has not had ‘anything like the reopening it was hoping for’.
Meanwhile, Rory Boland, travel editor at Which?, welcomed the addition of more green list countries, but warned that the constant chopping and changing would cause further disruption for many.
‘The cost for travellers can be significant,’ he said. ‘Some holidaymakers whose countries have now been placed in the red category will find that their airline or tour operator is unwilling to give them a refund. Other providers won’t refund or even facilitate rebooking if a country is moved from green to amber.’
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: ‘While there’s some welcome progress, the Government is still being too cautious at a time when they should be opening up travel faster to help the sector’s recovery.’
Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, said: ‘Now summer is fully under way, this provides some reassurance to consumers by keeping the status quo for key holiday destinations, as well as adding some Green list destinations for last-minute bookers where there are still great flight and holiday deals available.
‘But we remain disappointed at the double standards applied to travel versus the domestic economy. With infection rates remaining lower in much of Europe and the high vaccination levels in the UK, if not now, it is hard to know when the time is for much of Europe to genuinely turn Green.
‘And Government urgently needs to tackle this expensive testing regime which is adding unnecessary cost, especially for the fully vaccinated. No one wants to see flying become a preserve of the rich again – particularly when so many need to get away or reunite after such a long time.’
Is pingdemic mayhem finally easing? Number of alerts sent by NHS Covid app plunged by 43% last week… and that was BEFORE software was tweaked
The number of alerts given out by the NHS Covid app fell by 43 per cent in a week before it was made less sensitive, official data has shown.
NHS figures show 395,971 alerts in England and Wales were sent in the seven days up to July 28, down from 690,129 the week before, in a sign that pingdemic mayhem may finally be easing.
Thousands of people have deleted the app in recent week to avoid the alerts, which tell people they have been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus.
The alerts have forced millions into self-isolation across the country — despite not testing positive themselves — leading to chaos as supermarket shelves were left barren with workers having to stay home.
Earlier this week it was announced that the app is being updated so fewer contacts will be instructed to isolate.
Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M) advising ministers, insisted the app is still ‘incredibly useful’, despite the swathes of people being asked to isolate.
But the changes were made after the latest data — suggesting another reason is behind the drastic fall in alerts.
Britain’s Covid cases began falling on July 21 but did not reach the rate of the drop off in alerts until July 28, the last date included in the most recent data.
It comes after academics claimed Britain’s Covid self-isolation sentence could be halved to just five days and be as effective.
Data suggests 98 per cent of transmission occurs either before people become ill, or within five days of symptoms starting.
NHS figures show 395,971 alerts in England and Wales were sent in the seven days up to July 28, down from 690,129 the week before
The number of alerts given out by the NHS Covid app fell by 43 per cent in a week before it was made less sensitive, official data has shown
The NHS data today showed the number of venue check ins made with the Covid app dropped from 6.6million to 2.3million in the most recent week — a drop-off of 65 per cent.
People are no longer required to use the app to check into venues since restrictions were lifted on July 19, but the trend gives an indication in the fall in usage.
Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M) advising ministers, described the app as ‘incredibly useful’, despite large numbers of people being asked to isolate
Earlier this week, Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said the ‘logic’ behind the app was tweaked, although the sensitivity and risk threshold will remain unchanged.
Instead of checking contacts for five days before a positive test, the app will only go back two days.
Dr Tildesley told Sky News: ‘I know there have been some challenges in terms of particularly at the moment the so-called ‘pingdemic’, but in terms of being able to detect contact, it has been extremely valuable.
‘Obviously the challenge with that is that a lot of people are going into isolation and over the last few days the app has been made less sensitive.’
Dr Tildesley said there is a worry that if too many people are pinged, fewer may be willing to comply, but he added that the tweak will ‘hopefully guarantee higher levels of compliance’.
Fresh data from Oxford University’s Pathogen Dynamics Group shows up to 40 per cent of transmission occurs before symptoms emerge.
But most of this happens during the two days before people fall ill, which prompted the alteration of how the NHS Covid app works.
Around 35 per cent of transmission occurs within the first two days of people having symptoms.
However, the data came from September — before the highly-infectious Delta variant took off.
Oxford University data suggests 98 per cent of transmission occurs either before people become ill, or within five days of symptoms starting
Ministers are keen to replace quarantine rules with daily testing, with scientists now investigating if it is safe to make the drastic move.
Dr Muge Cevik, an infectious disease expert at the University of St Andrews, told the Telegraph: ‘Given most transmission happens very early on, the isolation period could be much shorter for the cases.
‘Viral load peaks pretty quickly, so people are highly infectious within the first few days.
‘Also importantly, many people have non-specific mild symptoms before developing more noticeable ones, like fatigue or myalgia, so that’s probably when people are highly infectious too but continue daily activity.
‘So, the current self-isolation guidelines, especially given the lack of support provided for sick leave, does not serve for the purpose.’