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NI travellers beat quarantine deadline, but others left stranded abroad

There was a mixture of relief and frustration for people arriving into Northern Ireland from Portugal yesterday after the country was moved to the amber list.

Sun-seekers have been forced to cancel their plans or arrive home early from their holiday following Thursday’s announcement.

Neil Ussher, who is originally from Northern Ireland but is now living in Portugal, was among those arriving at Belfast International Airport from Faro.

Mr Ussher said the announcement has made travel arrangements much “more difficult”.

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“My mum, she’s 87-years-old and lives in Limavady, and there’s me in Portugal, I’ve a brother in Canada and I’ve a sister in the USA,” he explained.

“I was back at Christmas and my brother was here in February and both of us had problems getting back at that time because obviously the rules change and they changed while we were both here.

“We had to change flights, book hotels and do all sorts of stuff so it’s just very hard making plans right now. It’s all very reactive.”

Mr Ussher added that he has changed his plans to visit home several times because of quarantine rules and the changing international travel list.

“I was just very pleased that it wasn't enforced right away so I have a few days but it all happens next Tuesday and I’ll be safely here,” he said.

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Neil Ussher

Neil Ussher

Neil Ussher

Cianna Manty from the Republic of Ireland arrived safely into Belfast and admitted she was fortunate that her week-long stay in Portugal was not interrupted by the change to the travel list. “We expected it to come in and it’s just lucky enough that we got back today and not Tuesday,” she said. “We managed to get the week slot so we enjoyed it.”

A spokesperson for Belfast International Airport said the news that Portugal is to be added to the amber list is “incredibly disappointing” for those affected and described it as “another devastating blow” to the airline industry.

“As we continue to ease lockdown measures and the vaccination programme is progressing well we remain optimistic that summer holidays to Europe will be a reality,” the airport added.

At other UK airports, it was a similar story of frustration.

Simon Smith, who is currently in Portugal, said his family have been racing to find Covid tests to get a return flight to the UK this morning.

The property developer, from Stamford, Lincolnshire, who owns a villa in the Lagos area, said he had visited five medical centres and the main hospital to try to get his family tested.

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Simon Smith with his wife Gemma and sons Albert and Buddy on holiday last year

Simon Smith with his wife Gemma and sons Albert and Buddy on holiday last year

PA

Simon Smith with his wife Gemma and sons Albert and Buddy on holiday last year

Mr Smith, who is abroad with his wife and two children, aged two and four, said: "There were about 35 people in the queue, all British, and they told us 'The first 15 are OK, but the rest of you might as well go home because we don't have enough tests’.

"I thought the whole idea of the green list was that they were going to monitor it and give people plenty of time and notice to get flights and sort out problems with testing.”

The family have been told the airport has a small amount of Covid tests available, so plan to turn up for their flight five hours early in the hope of getting one.

"If we can't get that, we can't fly," said Mr Smith. "And then we are going to be stuck here, and then have to face 10 days' quarantine.”


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