As hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers in France and elsewhere in Europe try to beat the 4am Saturday quarantine deadline, travel options are closing down and prices are going up.
At 10pm on Thursday, the UK government announced that 14 days of self-isolation will be mandatory for anyone arriving back from France, the Netherlands and Malta after 4am on Saturday morning.
The latest quarantine imposition triggered a scramble for trains, ferries and planes – with availability disappearing almost by the minute.
The last availability on Eurotunnel from Calais to Folkestone before the deadline is on the 12 noon departure. After that, the car-carrying operator has warned that anyone arriving at its Calais terminal without a confirmed booking will be turned away.
A spokesperson said: “The service is already very busy this weekend and there is no additional capacity. To avoid long queues and severe disruption we strongly advise against turning up at the terminal outside the allocated time.
“Customers will be unable to board alternative shuttles without a valid booking.”
When Spain was placed on the no-go list in July, only a few hours’ notice was given. The government has given a 30-hour window this time – ending at 4am on Saturday.
Friday is usually very busy for crossings, and Saturday even more so: it is the key travel for holidaymakers returning from France.
If the thousands of cars that are due to depart during the day on Saturday instead turn up on Friday, travel chaos could result.
The last spaces on P&O Ferries from Calais to Dover are at 10.10am. The next availability is on a ferry on Saturday morning that is due to arrive at the Kent port at 4am exactly – which will not give motorists enough time to reach British soil.
DFDS services from Dunkerque and Calais to Dover, and from Newhaven to Dieppe, are also fully booked from the afternoon onwards.
On the western Channel, Brittany Ferries are operating at reduced capacity because of social distancing and has no additional availability.
Eurostar is currently running a reduced service from Paris to London St Pancras International. The final departure is at 1.13pm, with only Business Premier available at £303 one way.
By air, seats on the only British Airways departure on Friday from Paris to London Heathrow quadrupled in price immediately after the government announcement, from £100 to £405.
Fares from Amsterdam have also soared. Between the Dutch capital and Edinburgh, the lowest fare on Friday is £334.
From Malta, all direct flights on Friday have sold out, but routings are available via Italy. Cheap deals are also on offer via Portugal – but changing planes there will trigger a quarantine obligation.