Thousands of anxious Brits have been left stranded at Heathrow Airport as swathes of countries closed their borders to the UK amid concerns over the new coronavirus strain.
While there’s more chaos at London St Pancras as people scrambled to leave the capital before the Eurostar cancels trains between London, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam.
Scores of over bookings meant multiple flights were being hastily arranged at the last minute for restless travellers desperate to get home for Christmas.
Among those saw around 300 people shepherded onto a re-arranged flight to Dublin at 10.30pm after they were told they couldn’t board an 8.55pm Aer Lingus flight to the Irish capital.
Heathrow tweeted to warn passengers not to turn up without a flight, while others questioned why so many were travelling so close to Christmas considering the required 10-day isolation period.
“All passengers are advised to check their flight status and travel advice before travelling to the airport,” it said.
“If you do not have a ticket or you are destined for a country with an active UK ban in place, you will not be able to check-in and therefore should contact your airline.”
In relation to the overbooked flight, Katie Cullen told The Irish Times hundreds of passengers were queuing at Heathrow to try and rebook on an alternative flight.
“It’s all over the place. People arrived after us and they haven’t been told anything and it is just general chaos,” she said.
One person wrote on social media: “Feel sorry for people stranded in Heathrow BUT why did they leave it so close to Xmas to come home when they’re meant to isolate for ten days? This is why travel needs to be banned for the moment.”
European nations, including Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, as well Columbia and El Salvador, have all banned flights from Britain over the “out of control” mutated strain.
The measures – brought in following Boris Johnson’s press conference on Saturday evening – vary and are short-term but the EU will meet on Monday to agree a more joined up approach.
The new strain of Covid-19 has spread quickly in London and the south east of England, causing the PM to revise the Christmas restrictions and place around 20 million people into a new Tier 4 level lockdown.
It means almost a third of the population of England are not allowed to form Christmas bubbles.
It comes after the UK recorded its highest-ever one-day rise in coronavirus cases with another 35,928 being reported, along with 326 new deaths.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the new variant as “out of control”.
Mr Johnson is going to chair an urgent Cobra meeting after the France-UK border closure brought Dover ferry traffic and rail services to a standstill.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister will chair a COBRA meeting tomorrow to discuss the situation regarding international travel, in particular the steady flow of freight into and out of the UK.
“Further meetings are happening this evening and tomorrow morning to ensure robust plans are in place.”
The French Prime Minister’s office said the travel ban would last 48 hours from midnight on Sunday while the Dutch government said that further “risk of the new virus strain being introduced to the Netherlands should be minimised as much as possible”.
The chaotic scenes at Heathrow come just 24 hours after hundreds of people were seen cramming into train stations and carriages in London terminals in a desperate bid to beat Tier 4 lockdown restrictions being imposed.
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