‘Worst nightmare’ for British family trapped after South Africa Covid red list decision


Jessica Dickinson, 33, and Michael Dickinson, 38, had travelled out to South Africa to introduce their 16-month-old daughter Amelia-Rose to her family for the first time

Jessica, Amelia-Rose (middle) and Michael in South Africa
Jessica, Amelia-Rose (middle) and Michael in South Africa

Scores of Brits have been trapped in South Africa after the country was suddenly put onto the travel red list after the emergence of a new Covid variant.

The Thursday evening announcement meant that South Africa was added to the list from Friday at 12pm, so all flights were suspended and those arriving in the UK were forced to isolate for 10 days.

From 4am on Sunday, this quarantine period will need to take place in a hotel.

Countless Brits, including Jessica and Michael Dickinson were caught in the sudden announcement, and now find themselves stranded in South Africa, currently with no way home.

Jessica, 33, described the situation as a “worst nightmare come true”.

Michael, Jessica, and Amelia-Rose on their flight out to South Africa

They are now stuck in South Africa

They had had their daughter Amelia-Rose, 16-months-old, during the pandemic, and none of their relatives from South Africa had seen her yet, so once restrictions lifted, the pair booked a trip out to introduce her to her family.

“Many people haven’t been home for quite some time, but we had our daughter and wanted her to meet the rest of her family.

“When the borders opened we thought it was a great opportunity to come and see our family, we’d had a couple deaths in the family, so we thought it was important to make the trip out.

“We moved to the UK and have been here for 10 years, we recently had our daughter and have had no family support raising her. Nobody’s met her, this was an opportunity for them to at least meet her, because people are getting old and you never know when it will be somebody’s last time.”

After flying out last week, the family from Surrey were due to return tonight.

The first they knew about the announcement was when Amelia woke Jessica up crying, and she checked her phone to see messages from a friend about it.

However, as they were due to return on Friday they thought they would be okay to fly home as usual.

Then they got an email from British Airways saying their flight was cancelled.

“It’s literally just a snowball effect of everything, getting home, my daughter being sick, jobs,” Jessica said.

“My daughter’s also not been very well, she’s had a bad chest infection and I’ve been keen to get her back to the UK to have her looked at so this has really thrown us off.

“In the morning (Friday), we went down for breakfast and we overheard some other Brits talking about how they were all trying to rush off.

“There were people rushing to get PCR tests and take flights that had like three stayovers. But we can’t do that, we have our daughter.”

Jessica described how they had sat on the phone for hours trying to get through to various airlines to no avail, and even how the British consulate was “useless”.

“Both me and my husband are due to start back at work on Monday, but I don’t have my work laptop and we have to figure out childcare this side, whilst still paying for our nursery that side.

“It’s been relentless.

Amelia-Rose meeting her aunt and grandmother for the first time

“We nearly finalised another flight with Emirates on Tuesday evening, and were ready to pay until it was cancelled.

“We understand we’ll have to do the hotel quarantine but we’re worried about doing it with our daughter and I’m ADHD. I’m worried about what it’s going to be like on the other side. I get that’s what it needs to be like to get back home.”

On the journey back they face a bill of thousands because of the government’s actions as they have to book new flights and then pay for hotel quarantine too.

British Airways, like all airways operating to and from South Africa from the UK, learned about the government’s ban the same time as everyone else.

Given no prior-warning, they were left scrambling to try and organise a way home for the Brits stuck abroad whilst having very little to no guidance from the government.

They have set up a dedicated phone line for Brits in South Africa and now Jessica, Michael and Amelia have a flight booked in for the 4th to get them home.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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