COVID: More than 100 British tourists refused entry to Austria after coronavirus rules website mix-up

More than 100 British tourists have been denied entry to Austria after COVID rules were not updated before they left for their holiday, it has been reported.

Some 110 Britons, most of whom are thought to have been going on a ski trip, flew into Innsbruck on Sunday, believing they only needed to have had a negative coronavirus PCR test within the last 72 hours.

But when they arrived, they were told they needed a test with 48 hours, according to the BBC and the Express.

Most were able to fly back straight away, but 40 were escorted by police to a hotel where they were kept overnight.

Of those, 28 flew home on Monday and the other 12, reportedly made up of families with children, were able to stay, according to the local newspaper Tiroler Tageszeitung.

All who were unable to stay reportedly had to pay for their return to the UK themselves.

‘Neither professional nor humane’

One social media user who appeared to have been caught up in the disruption tweeted that there were “lots of angry/upset families”.

Another Twitter poster said that on her flight, about half were refused entry to the country.

Opposition politicians in Austria said the government was at fault for updating the regulations too late.

OVP tourism spokesman Franz Horl said that the British tourists had “relied on non-updated information from the Ministry of Health on the Internet”.

He added: “It is neither professional nor humane to lure people to Austria for Christmas and then bill them in a hotel under police surveillance and send them home the next day at [their] own expense.”

Austria is currently in the middle of a COVID-19 surge, and, in the last few days, changed its entry rules for people coming from the UK, Netherlands, Denmark and Norway, where Omicron has caused cases to rise sharply.

Austria now requires Britons and those from the other nations to have had a booster or third vaccination, as well as having tested negative before departure.

Brexit to blame?

Tiroler Tageszeitung said Brexit was also partly to blame for what had happened as, if the travellers had come from the other EU countries affected, they could have gone into quarantine and then left it when they tested negative.

The paper says this was not available to those from outside the EU.

Innsbruck’s vice mayor, Johannes Anzengruber, said those who had been turned away on Sunday were “individual travellers who were misinformed about the entry requirements”.

He also blamed the government in Vienna, which changed the rules on 23 December – but did not publish it on its website at the time.

Mr Anzengruber told the newspaper: “The old rules could even be read there on Monday.”

Outcry over ski tourists

According to Express, there was an outcry in the last few weeks after thousands of ski tourists flew from Omicron hotspots like the UK to Tyrol and Salzburg.

From 27 December, Austria introduced restrictions including a 10pm closing time to slow the spread of Omicron to prevent it being imported from Europe’s hardest-hit countries.

The new measures against travellers from the UK and three other countries were announced at the same time, on 22 December, but the date they would be imposed does not appear to have been made clear.

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