Dozens of British holidaymakers have been turned away from the Austrian border after falling foul of a last-minute change to Covid travel rules.
Some 110 Britons who had arrived at Innsbruck airport, in western Austria, on December 26 were turned away by border guards for failing to comply with the new rules in what was described by one passenger as a ‘complete shambles’.
Just a day prior, Austria had tightened its entry requirements so that new arrivals needed to provide a PCR test that was less than 48 hours old – but it appears the information was not updated on the government’s website.
Previously, the rule had been that the PCR test could be up to 72 hours old. Some Brits are believed to have been carrying an old test, while others were caught out by a rule introduced last week that required proof of a booster vaccine.
Dozens of British tourists arriving in Austria on December 26 were turned away from border control in Innsbruck because Covid rules had changed
110 Brits who arrived at Innsbruck (pictured) were stopped for having PCR tests that were too old, or having no evidence of a Covid booster shot
Seventy of the tourists stopped in Innsbruck were able to fly home the same day on a returning aircraft with spare seats, according to the BBC.
But another 40 were placed under police guard and forced to spend a night in a hotel before being flown back the following day.
Of the 40 placed into hotel quarantine, 12 were allowed to take new PCR tests and continue with their holidays when the results came back negative.
All of those allowed to take new tests are thought to have been families with kids.
Franz Horl, of the opposition People’s Party, described conditions suffered by the tourists as ‘neither professional nor humane’.
He said it was unacceptable to bring people in over the holidays, place them under police guard at a hotel and then send them home at their own expense.
Horl said he did not disagree with the rules themselves, noting Britain’s high rate of Omicron cases, but said the way the situation was managed had been ‘botched’.
Mike Audus, a Twitter user caught up in the chaos, described scenes at Innsbruck airport as ‘carnage’ saying police were rejecting ‘hundreds’ of British arrivals.
‘Austrian embassy websites and others not up to date,’ he tweeted. ‘Complete disconnect/shambles.’
Austria, a popular skiing destination, had reported failed to update the guidance on its embassy website and caught the tourists off-guard
Austria entered a Covid lockdown to reduce cases earlier this month, but lifted measures after just a few weeks. It also plans to bring in a vaccine mandate next year
Austria, a popular skiing destination, is far from the only country to tighten entry rules to British travellers over fears of the Omicron variant.
Last month, Switzerland effectively banned British tourists by forcing even double-vaccinated arrivals to quarantine for 10 days.
France then enacted an outright ban on all Britons travelling to the country except for essential reasons, which took effect earlier this month.
The move prompted anger from MPs who accused Emmanuel Macron of playing politics with a view to the French election in April.
At the time, Omicron Covid made up a greater share of France’s Covid cases than those in Britain.
Germany then followed suit, also banning all British arrivals except for returning German citizens and their families – who were forced into Covid quarantine.
The travel bans were brought in despite warnings from the European Centre for Disease Control that Omicron will become the continent’s dominant form of Covid within weeks, whether travel is restricted or not.
The agency said travel bans could be used to slow the spread of the variant within the first few weeks of it emerging, but that their worth would quickly diminish once community spread began and they should be dropped.