“It’s completely ridiculous”: Bolton father stranded in South Africa tells of chaos when plane was canceled due to Covid variant

A father from Bolton has told how he has been stranded in South Africa due to the outbreak of a new coronavirus variant.

Richard Lace, 40, runs a security company and flew out to Johannesburg on November 21 on a business trip.

He was to fly back Friday at. 17 via Dubai, but his flight was canceled in response to the new Omicron strain of Covid-19 that has been discovered in the country.

Since then, Richard says he has spent more than £ 4,000 trying to get home via other routes without success.

“The way we’ve been treated is a joke,” he said.

“It has been outrageous and put a mental strain on my family.

“It was Thursday when we started seeing the stories, I came back to my hotel and my wife sent me links about the variant.

“We could feel the energy, it was starting to look bad.

“We were going to fly to Dubai from Cape Town and then Birmingham on Friday and we thought everything would be fine.

“But on Friday, Dubai put a stop to it and stranded immediately.”

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“We knew we would have had to stay 10 days in isolation, but they would not lock us through Dubai, they closed the borders.

“Everything was just canceled during the night.

“They said that if you can get home before 4am on Sunday, you do not have to quarantine at a hotel, but they have canceled all flights.”

Richard said he made a desperate attempt to get home by first traveling from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then booking a flight to Amsterdam.

But he says he was unable to board the plane as only EU citizens were allowed.

“It’s completely ridiculous,” Richard said.

“The British Embassy in South Africa is completely dead – we have not received a reply at all. You are calling and no one is answering – I have sent an email to the British Consulate and we have just received an automatic reply.

“We have not received any help whatsoever.

“Apparently British Airways can fly on Monday.

“Now I’m just sitting to myself in a hotel room in Johannesburg, it’s just crazy.”

Richard said there was chaos at South Africa’s airports when it became clear that flights would be canceled.

He says he understands why the British government has made the decision to close air routes, but believes there should have been a plan in place.

“When I’m completely honest, I feel like the British Government is down by it, they can not just leave people,” he said.

“There was no plan, it was just ‘you are not coming home’.

“There should have been someone at the airport.

“There were families – women and children in tears because they had no idea what to do.

“At one desk – the booking agent – there must have been 5,000 people there.

“I do not want to see my family for two or three weeks, I do not want to be able to run my business. I am desperate to see my family.

“The whole situation could have been handled better.”

THE MEN contacted the State Department to get a comment. A spokeswoman did not comment specifically on Richard’s case, but said the government would ‘continue to offer tailored consular assistance to UK nationals abroad in need 24/7’ – stressing that it has always been made clear that ‘no journey is without risks’.

That comes when a third case of the Omicron variant was discovered in the UK, and Health Minister Sajid Javid confirmed that mandatory mask wearing will return to shops and public transport on Tuesday.

He said on Sunday that it was “nowhere near” time to reintroduce rules on social distance and work from home, despite a number of security measures being reintroduced to tackle the worrying strain of Covid-19.

Passengers arriving in the UK have been told that from Tuesday morning they will have to take a PCR test for Covid-19, with the expectation that they will have to isolate themselves until they test negative.

All contacts with a suspected case of Omicron should be isolated for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status, due to concerns that existing jabs will be less effective against the strain, which is thought to spread rapidly.

Sir. Javid said the international arrivals test regime will be introduced “as soon as possible”, despite online passenger location forms stating that PCR tests will be required rather than lateral flow tests from 1 p.m. 4 on Tuesday.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said they intend to reflect the border restrictions.

He admitted that passengers who flew in from southern Africa before 10 nations were added to the red list were not tested on landing and could have taken public transport to return home.

“I think the speed we were dealing with could not have been faster,” he said, adding that those who arrived before the change had been contacted and asked to take samples.

Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), whose modeling helped set off the first lockdown, said he expects to see “significantly larger numbers” of Omicron in the UK in the coming days, but welcomed the new measures as “proportional” to slowing the spread while scientists analyze its properties.

“It does not mean that we can be complacent if we see a very rapid growth of Omicron – and that’s a big if at the moment and we have no guarantee that we will – but if we do, I undoubtedly think , that the government would be wise to keep all options on the table in terms of how to respond to it, “he told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend program.

Yvette Cooper, the Labor MP who chairs the Commons Interior Committee, called on the government to “immediately” reinstate pre-travel tests because the new approach “leaves too many gaps” with potentially infected passengers able to travel home with public transport.


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