The government is expected to announce new travel restrictions this week, including a possible quarantine period in a hotel for those arriving in the UK. Ten-day stays are likely to cost the traveller more than £1,000.
Three people have spoken about their reasons for flying abroad, and how they feel about new UK travel restrictions that may come into place.
‘It’s going to be impossible for me to work’
For Iain, who is 47 and lives in Brighton, a hotel quarantine might mean he is unable to do his job overseeing safety training on EU industrial sites. Iain travels to and from the EU almost every week to assess workers’ training on safety measures including advanced first aid and rescue from confined spaces, predominantly in the energy industry.
“You never know from one week to the next what the rules are going to be,” he said. “I only travel for one day of work so I’m able to take just one, same-day result PCR test on the Wednesday which covers me for travel to the country and entry back into the UK on Friday. There are only a couple of places that offer this so I have to travel to London on the train and pay £275 for each test.”
“I wish I could work from home, but the safety checks have to be done,” he added.
At present, Iain said he was exempt from quarantining due to the nature of his work. But as he travels so regularly, he fears that if he’s required to stay in a hotel to quarantine each time he won’t be able to work at all. “It will be impossible,” he said. “I could get stuck over there if the rules change overnight. I’ve got kids and run a business in the UK.”
Regular travel has also highlighted the difference in British border controls to European countries. “I came into Heathrow on Friday night, and it was absolute chaos,” he said.
“There was just one border force officer checking hundreds of passengers. However, I did see some passengers being prevented from entering the UK when they were offloaded from the plane.
“Abroad, they do it more efficiently, as long as you’ve got all your documents in place.”
‘I thought I should just do it, because I don’t know when it’s going to end’
Maria, 31, travelled to her native Argentina from London at the start of January two years after she last visited.
“With everything that’s happening, I felt the need to see my family who all live there,” she said. “I was missing them a lot, and with the uncertainty of not knowing when [lockdown] was going to be over, I thought, I should just do it, because I don’t know when it’s going to end. Working from home had really taken its toll on my mental health, and I was in a bad place.”
However, Maria said that had the UK government’s hotel quarantine policy been in place, she may not have travelled.
“I do feel if the government are saying try not to travel, but if you do, you have to pay for your own quarantine in a hotel, it may make people question if they really need to travel,” she said. “I would really have thought about it, because a thousand pounds is a lot of money, particularly at the moment. But some people do need to travel for their mental health, and I worry about those who have that need but don’t have the means to pay.”
Asked what she would say to those who may argue she should not have travelled, Maria said: “You need to be kind, you don’t know why people are travelling. I wasn’t coming for a holiday, I really needed to go.”
‘I haven’t seen my daughter for 110 days’
For Michael, 34, a communications officer from Southampton, the hotel quarantine policy threatens to disrupt his relationship with his daughter who lives in Finland with her mother. Since the pair split, they have had an arrangement: “I would go and see my daughter every three months and take her back here to the UK for a month.” He doesn’t think that he and his daughter could feasibly stay in a hotel room together to quarantine.
“It’s a difficult situation, bringing my daughter to England as she’s only two years old. Young children aren’t suited to staying in one room without many toys,” he said.
Michael said that while he is “doing his best” to follow the lockdown rules, he believes there is a “misconception” around those flying in and out of the UK.
“We live in a global world and, when I split up with my ex, I never thought that I would be separated from my daughter for months on end and not be able to see her,” he said. “I haven’t seen my daughter for 110 days. And I do video calls every day with her and it breaks my heart. “I feel like my life is being controlled by the five o’clock press conferences by Boris Johnson.”