PUBLISHED: 16:59 16 August 2020 | UPDATED: 09:07 17 August 2020
A family-of-four from Bury St Edmunds has told of its “stressful” experience trying to flee France before the two-week quarantine rule came into force.
Michelle Masson, husband Bruce and their two sons George, eight and Henry, six, were enjoying a remote holiday in a hamlet in Fontainebleau, when they heard the news France had been added to the quarantine list. Concerned about spending 14 days in their Bury St Edmunds home – which only has a small garden – the family decided to cut their holiday short and try to get back to the UK.
The announcement came out at 11pm French time on Thursday, when the couple were sleeping. They awoke to texts from friends and family the next morning telling them to get home and instantly the panic set in.
“We spent three hours trying to book a train back,” said Mr Masson, who has been working from home since the lockdown was introduced.
“We had the Eurotunnel website on refresh and we must have tried more than 30 times before we were successful – I even know my credit card number off by heart now.”
Luckily they managed to book a flexi plus ticket, which meant they could get any train time as long as there was space.
It was then a mad rush for the family to get all their belongings into the car as quickly as possible.
“It was chaos and a huge shock,” said Mrs Masson. “We were throwing things in the car, we hadn’t charged our phones and we filled out our return to England form in the car.
“One of the boys was sitting on an inflatable lobster trying to get the air out.”
It took them almost five hours to reach the Eurotunnel due to the huge volume of traffic as many tourists tried to dash home – making it back to Suffolk just before midnight, a few hours before the 4am deadline.
“We were very lucky to get back,” Mrs Masson said. “There were lots of emotions in that 24 hours, we were all sad to be cutting our time in France short but it was such a relief.”
They decided to come home as they thought the quarantine would be too difficult without being able to go for their daily exercise – and spending 14 days with two young children cooped up at home.
Speaking of their experience, Mrs Masson said: “It felt quite unsafe being in such a hurry especially with so many people around us, as we had been so careful up to that point and didn’t see anyone apart from at the supermarket.
“However, the organisation at the Eurotunnel was amazing considering how many people were trying to get home.”
“We understand why these rules were put in place and the quarantine needs to be done, but a bit more notice would have been helpful to give us more time to make a decision.”
Mrs Masson said they feel “very lucky” to be home safely.
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