‘Heartbroken’ families forced to spend Christmas apart due to quarantine costs

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Families have been left “heartbroken” after being forced to cancel Christmas plans over the cost of the UK’s quarantine hotels.

Colin Doney, a teacher from Northampton, had to cancel his flight home from Malawi due to the £2,285-cost of the 10-day quarantine required for travellers from red list countries.

His 77-year-old mother, who suffers from severe osteoarthritis, now faces spending Christmas Day alone after his father died last year.

“My flights were booked to return home to be with mum but the quarantine stipulations have made it too costly,” Mr Doney, 52, told the PA news agency.

Colin Doney, a teacher from Northampton, standing with his arms crossed
Colin Doney, a teacher from Northampton, had to cancel his flight home from Malawi (Colin Doney/ PA)

Mr Doney has been teaching at a school in Malawi for almost two years but said it would cost more than a quarter of his annual wage to fly home for the festive period.

His father was diagnosed with cancer in January 2020 then “died alone in hospital” due to Covid restrictions five months later, something the family are “still angry about”.

He said his mother is sad that plans for the day will not go ahead, but the family had been “prepared for the worst” amid news of the Omicron variant.

“Infection numbers here in Malawi are low and we’re double vaccinated,” Mr Doney added.

“There are lots of other teachers and NGO workers out here who have cancelled or rearranged plans.

“People say, ‘it’s their own fault for being out there in the first place’ but we’re working in a school here, teaching 98% local kids – it’s not like we’re here on holiday.”

His widowed mother has a “support network of friends and neighbours” in place but Mr Doney said he is worried about what could happen if the UK is placed in another lockdown.

Bruce Gerber (right) and his partner Kim Hawridge
Bruce Gerber (right) and his partner Kim Hawridge have been forced to cancel their Christmas plans and called the travel laws “nonsensical” (Bruce Gerber/ PA)

“Thankfully, my older brother will be seeing her on Boxing Day, but if another lockdown happens, as is looking more likely, then they will be less able to help her.

“Mum and I will now have a virtual Christmas I think, with lots of video calls and I’ve managed to get a gift sent to her.”

Meanwhile, Bruce Gerber, 45, and his partner, Kim Hawridge, 47, have been forced to cancel their Christmas plans and called the travel laws “nonsensical”.

Ms Hawridge, a British Citizen who lives in South Africa, booked her flight to London in November but can no longer travel due to the “ridiculous” costs of the 10-day quarantine rule.

“She would have to quarantine for 10 Days at the ridiculous cost, which would mean she would be in quarantine over Christmas anyway,” Mr Gerber told PA.

“This is the one time of the year that everyone deserves to be with loved ones.

“I really can’t see why (the Government) can’t allow British nationals travelling from red list countries to quarantine at home or take South Africa off. It makes no sense at all for them to still be on such a list.”

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