British holidaymakers in Mexico have told of their dismay after the country was abruptly put on the government’s red list of travel destinations.
The changes, which were announced on Wednesday night and will come into force at 4am on Sunday, mean that holidaymakers coming from Mexico and other red list countries – including Georgia, La Réunion and Mayotte – will either have to cut their holidays short to beat the restrictions or pay thousands of pounds to stay in a quarantine hotel when they return.
Among those forced to cut their holiday short was Joe Coward, 29, who criticised the government’s handling of travel rules sharply after finding out about the changes shortly after landing in Mexico on Thursday morning for a two-week honeymoon near Cancún.
The student from London told PA Media: “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.
“We feel extremely angry at the government’s incompetent handling of international travel rules during this crisis, and incredibly sad and frustrated that the time that should’ve been spent enjoying being newlyweds has been ruined.”
Seeing out the rest of their holiday and quarantining when they return was not an option because the cost of government quarantine hotels,” he said.
The cost of a 10-day hotel quarantine stay will rise by £535 to £2,285 for a single traveller from 12 August. The cost per additional adult will be £1,430 and £325 for five to 12-year-olds.
Coward said that if British Airways did not refund them, they would lose several thousand pounds as a result of the rule change.
Ayo Faley, an NHS test and trace call handler from London, also arrived in Cancún on Thursday morning, but has decided to see out her holiday and “face the consequences” of paying for quarantine when she returns on 11 August.
Faley, 24, said: “I only found out the minute I was able to connect to wifi at the airport … I went into a state of panic.”
She said she had tried to find other British people to share information and find out what they were planning to do, but they too had “confusion, fear and regret all in their faces”.
“I am absolutely distraught … I’ve decided to just stay and enjoy the time here.”
Faley works from home, but does not know how she will access the equipment she needs to work from quarantine.
She said: “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.”
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said on Thursday that the traffic-light system meant holidaymakers could travel abroad without “looking over their shoulders” for changing rules.
The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, however said the shifting the rules were sowing confusion.
“Most people don’t say that they object necessarily to the tests, it’s just the constant changing. One day they’ve got to do something, next day they’ve got to do something else,” he said.
“They don’t know, when they are booking their holiday and when they are trying to get back, what they’ve got to comply with. All they’ve asked for, what we’ve asked for, is a simple, understandable system that puts in place sensible controls for those that are going on holiday.”