Panicked Brits crowd into Faro airport to get home before needing to quarantine
Huge crowds of Brits are squeezing into a Portuguese airport as the race to get home before Tuesday continues.
Faro Airport has turned into a mini-slice of British society over the past three days, following a UK government announcement that Portugal would soon be reclassified as amber.
The move means returning travellers will have to pay for expensive tests and quarantine for 10 days, if they get home after 4am on Tuesday.
The rush to get onto a plane before then has seen prices for flights rocket.
There are an estimated 112,000 Britons currently in Portugal and airlines have been laying on extra flights or larger aircraft to get people home.
Yesterday around 100 flights were expected to depart Faro alone, leading to mega queues inside and outside the airport.
The sudden reclassification has also led to a run on testing in Portugal.
Photos from tourist hotspots show queues snaking down streets as people try desperately to show they’re negative, or else face being barred from flights.
Algarve tourism bosses mobilised a lorry normally used for sports events to beef up airport Covid testing facilities after angry travellers were turned away from centres near their resort.
Around 20 staff got an SOS call to help out after Algarve Tourism tried to break the congestion by calling on sports management company GlobalSport to bring in the juggernaut normally used as a stage for trophy presentations after road races.
Logistics coordinator Vanessa Soares, speaking as cleaners hoovered the back of the vehicle to start the £25 lateral flow tests which returning Brit holidaymakers need to complete before being allowed on planes, said: “We got here in the middle of the night after a call from Algarve Tourism.
“We’re expecting a busy 48 hours.
“We’re working with expert testers and processors who will try to alleviate some of the pressure on the existing airport testing facilities.
“This truck is normally used at things like running races for awards ceremonies.
One Brit at Faro Airport likened the queues to those seen at Thorpe Park during peak season, while another revealed passengers were stressed and confused.
Mr Cohen, 21, from Brighton, told The Mirror: “There’s definitely a few hundred people queuing. As soon as I saw the queue it was like ‘oh my God’… I was gobsmacked.
“It’s like queuing for Thorpe Park over the summer holiday or half-term and you are waiting two hours to get on a ride.
“As soon as I saw the queue I knew immediately that a large percentage of these passengers had to book emergency flights back or had changed their flights.
“You can see the urgency of everyone to get back before the quarantine comes into force.”
Mr Cohen joined the baggage line at around 6pm and was only half-way through the queue an hour later.
The customer delivery driver added that he also faced another boarding queue before his flight back to Gatwick at 8.10pm.
Katherine Hitchen, 30, from Hindhead, Surrey, travelling home with dad Michael and daughter Ivy, three, voiced the anger and frustration that was palpable as Saturday’s exodus intensified in the countdown to Tuesday’s 4am quarantine deadline.
She said: “We touched down on Thursday to texts saying Portugal had been put on the amber list.
“We were planning to stay for a week but are going back tomorrow (MON) now to avoid having to quarantine.
“Rescheduling the flights hasn’t been too stressful or expensive. We’re part of a group of eight and have paid just £320 to make the change.
“Getting our tests is proving the tricky part.
“We’ve turned up today for quick tests at the airport even though our flights aren’t till tomorrow evening.
“I’ve heard people have missed flights and I didn’t want to run the risk of it happening to us.
“I knew time was vital and I came straight here because I knew a lot of the other testing centres were turning people away.
“It’s been a pretty stressful few days since we arrived. I’d like to be sitting round the pool right now, not waiting to have a swab stuck up my nose.
Holidaymaker Mark Ainsworth said he saw around 100 people queuing for Covid tests when he arrived at Faro Airport yesterday.
He added: “We saw several passengers being turned away for the wrong paperwork and they were clearly quite stressed.
“There does seem to be real confusion among passengers though about whether they need lateral flow tests or PCR in particular.
“It’s definitely more tense than usual because you know if you have the wrong papers, you will miss your flight and by the time you get another, it will mean amber and isolation.
“Of course, there is still the possibility that someone on your plane tests positive in which case that means 10 day isolation or, even worse, Covid.
“That said, we knew we were taking a risk when we booked so we’re not complaining.”
Louise Cooper, 55, from High Peak in Derbyshire who turned up to be tested at Faro Airport at breakfast-time today around eight hours before her 5.45pm flight with four friends including Izzy Hertzog, 53, and Lorraine Allsops, 54, said: “We got here Monday morning and spent the first three days trying to sort out the tests for our flight home.
“It’s been a nightmare. Everywhere was fully booked.
“The only place we were offered was a drive-thru in Faro which was about an hour away from where we’ve been staying in Praia da Luz.
“Being a drive-thru we were told we needed a car obviously which we don’t have.”
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