'It ruined the whole holiday': Holiday-makers returning to North express frustration over quarantine

'It ruined the whole holiday': Holiday-makers returning to North express frustration over quarantine

Aleksanda Sabalina (left) and Edith Mikutenaite returned from Barcelona on Monday (Liam McBurney/PA)

Travellers arriving back to the North from Spain have expressed frustration over new quarantine rules.

Passengers continued to fly to and return from Spain at Belfast International Airport on Monday following the quarantine announcement at the weekend.

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said those returning from Spain must observe a 14-day quarantine, following similar moves across the rest of the UK.

Aleksanda Sabalina (left) and Edith Mikutenaite returned from Barcelona on Monday (Liam McBurney/PA)

Edith Mikutenaite and Aleksandra Sabalina, from Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, who returned from Barcelona on Monday, described the news of having to quarantine following a three-night trip as “horrible”.

“It ruined the whole holiday,” said Ms Sabalina.

“We did not expect that at all, we thought the announcement would be made on Monday or at least some sort of notice for people who had already left without knowing there was going to be a quarantine to ensure they had any work issues sorted out.”

Ms Mikutenaite said: “It is totally unfair – we only went away for three days and now we are going to be stuck for 14 days at home.”

They said they have informed their employers that they travelled but need to discuss further their quarantine arrangements.

“We don’t know how this is going to affect work,” Ms Mikutenaite said.

“Our children now have nothing to do and nowhere to go for the next two weeks just because we went on a short trip,” Ms Sabalina added.

Christopher Andres Halliday with his partner Melissa Campbell and their six-year-old son after arriving from Barcelona, Spain (Liam McBurney/PA)

Christopher Halliday, from Belfast, was visiting his mother in Barcelona.

“Everything in Barcelona was very safe, everyone was wearing face masks, to be honest I think they are ahead of us in terms of safety, so I just don’t understand this decision they have made,” he said.

“We were over for a week, we hadn’t seen my mother in over a year. We were going to stay an extra week but we weren’t sure what the situation was going to be so we came home today.”

Easyjet runs the current flights which operate between Northern Ireland and Spain.

A spokeswoman said it is too early to say whether passenger numbers have been affected by the quarantine announcement, but added the airline will continue to operate its full schedule in the coming days while monitoring the situation closely.

“We are disappointed that the Government has decided to impose a quarantine requirement for those travelling from the whole of Spain since the increased occurrence of coronavirus is regional rather than nationwide,” the airline said in a statement.

“We plan to operate our full schedule in the coming days. Customers who no longer wish to travel can transfer their flights without a change fee or receive a voucher for the value of the booking.”

Passengers leaving Belfast International Airport after the quarantine announcement at the weekend (Liam McBurney/PA)

On Sunday evening, Mr Swann said the decision was not taken lightly, and was made to keep people safe.

“There is no ideal time to make such a decision. A phased introduction would not have made sense. Public health considerations must take priority,” he said.

“The decision was taken after consideration of the latest data.

“Covid-19 prevalence in Spain has increased in recent weeks – a trend which accelerated rapidly in the latter half of the past week.

“I appreciate that people returning from Spain and its islands will now be faced with an unexpected period of quarantining.

“The advice from the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser is that a negative Covid-19 test immediately on return from Spain would not exclude infection – so a period of self-isolation would still be required.”

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