A couple who spent £6,000 to avoid a stint in a quarantine hotel when returning to the UK from South Africa caught Covid as they travelled through seven countries in a bid to avoid isolation.
Ivan and Jayne Hutchings spent thousands on hotels, taxis, Covid tests and flights as they tried to stagger their journey to Streetly from their second home in South Africa.
The pair, who said they were “frightened” of being forced to quarantine in a UK hotel room, ended up catching Covid during their journey, reports Birmingham Live.
After ending up flying home via Frankfurt, which is currently on the amber list, the couple will now have to quarantine at home for ten days.
Ivan, 56, branded the red list hotel rule “barbaric” and said: “Our grandparents fought for freedom”.
He said: “If they don’t trust people, clamp us. I am happy to quarantine at home. From a mental point of view the thought of hotel quarantine was frightening. I ended up getting covid because of it.
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“The Government did really well with the jabs but hotel quarantining is appalling.”
Ivan, a retired financial planner, has multiple sclerosis and the couple avoid the British winter by spending ten weeks at their home in George, in South Africa’s Western Cape.
They flew out on December 8 last year and planned to return to the UK briefly in January to mark Ivan’s mother’s 80th birthday.
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But in December the Government suspended all flights from South Africa. And although British nationals could return in January, direct flights were cancelled, leading to them extending their stay.
They finally made it home via flights from South Africa, Egypt and Istanbul. They then had a break in Montenegro before catching a taxi to Croatia and then flying to Frankfurt and finally Birmingham.
Ivan told BirminghamLive: “Going to South Africa in the winter helps my health. I can get out and play golf over there.
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“We flew out on December 8 and were due to come back on January 15 for my mum’s 80th.
“But South Africa went red so we couldn’t come back without being imprisoned in a hotel. In my opinion our grandparents fought for freedom. And to be put in prison was unacceptable.
“So we extended our stay out there and our visa.”
Ivan and Jayne then tried to plot a way home in April but still faced the prospect of hotel quarantine, leading to their seven-country marathon by air and taxi.
Ivan said: “We were due to come back on April 21. But it got to that date and we couldn’t fly as would still have had to hotel quarantine.
“They we arranged in early May to fly via the Maldives. We were going to stay there for 12 days and fly back. But the flights to London were cancelled because the Maldives went on the red list because of the delta variant.
“Friends suggested we to fly back from Egypt but then that went red too so it was out of the question.
“From a mental point of view, we were trying to get home. South Africa in June starts to get cold and isn’t good for my MS.
“We went to the travel agent in South Africa who said the Balkans had opened up. It was suggested we go to Montenegro, stay there and fly back.
“So we flew from South Africa, to Egypt, to Istanbul and then to Montenegro.
“We were in a very nice five-star hotel for 12 nights. It was absolutely brilliant. Better than paying for hotel imprisonment.”
But the couple caught covid in Montenegro and had to endure the hotel quarantining they had tried to avoid in the UK.
Ivan continued: “Before flying back we had a PCR test and both tested positive. We think we caught Covid in the airport.
After eight days both had a PCR test – Jayne was negative but Ivan was still positive. Two days later they both tested negative and asked the travel agent to “get us out as fast as possible”.
They took a taxi from Montenegro to Croatia, where their series of flights resumed.
He said: “It was pretty scary in Montenegro, in a country where we didn’t speak the language.
“We flew from Croatia to Frankfurt and then to Birmingham on Friday, July 2. We chose to go business class all the way.
“We got to Birmingham Airport and were asked a brief question – where have you come from’. No check at all.
“We had to wait an hour before our bags came through.
“Now we have to quarantine at home for a further ten days. My question is – why am I quarantining? Is it because I may have covid? It’s pretty impossible to have covid twice.
Ivan suggested travellers should be offered an ankle tracker tag instead of being forced to stay in a hotel when coming back from a red list country.
He added: “The Government did really well with the jabs but hotel quarantining is appalling. Whereas in South Africa people are told ‘these are the risks’, everybody wears masks.
“If somewhere’s too busy you assess it yourself. Our Government never allowed us to and never gave people the choice.”