Olivia Xu, who lives in the UK with her German husband and their one-year-old son, says that she and around 60 other passengers were held for around 15 hours after their plane touched down in Hanover on Sunday.
The detainment came despite the plane landing six hours before a travel ban on UK flights came into force. The ban was brought in due to the emergence of a new strain of the coronavirus in south east of England.
“We were treated like animals,” Xu says, complaining that the authorities showed little concern for the wellbeing of her baby or the four other young children among the group.
After being held on their plane for two hours without explanation upon arrival, the passengers passed through border controls and underwent compulsory coronavirus tests, but were then surprised to learn that they would have to spend the night in a room at the airport.
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She describes how the official message changed from asking people to go into a 10-day quarantine, to telling them they would all have to take a test at the airport, to saying they'd have to wait for their test results at the airport.
Eventually they were all locked in an unheated room next to the airfield.
“Everyone was furious,” Xu says. But their demands for an explanation were consistently ignored.
A cause of particular upset to the passengers was the treatment of the five young children who'd been on the flight.
According to Xu’s account, unprepared local authorities had no baby food or formula milk to hand out, and also failed to provide anything more than a single sachet of formula milk during the entire evening.
“At about midnight they came with some adult milk and we had to explain to them that the babies couldn't drink that.”
'Babies crying all night'
Xu said police officers were aggressive and rude, with one threatening to take away some warm water he'd brought in if the families kept complaining; another officer made a rude finger gesture at them when they banged on a window to try and attract his attention.
“The two other babies were crying from around midnight to four in the morning when they eventually fell to sleep,” she recalls.
Xu says that the adults were offered thin paper blankets that were inadequate to warm them in the unheated room, while the children were given dirty blankets.
“They were just making things up as they went along,” she says. “There was absolutely no human touch.”
She also thinks that the 15-hour detainment only made the risk of spreading the new strain of the virus worse, as no hand sanitizer was provided and the travellers were forced to sleep in close proximity in one room.
It was subsequently confirmed that one of the passengers was infected with the virus, but at no point during the night was anyone taken away, Xu says. “I guess that whoever that was was with us the whole time.”
At around 9am the following morning, two hours after her family's test result came through, the travellers were told they could continue on their journeys.
Local authorities in Hanover have since called Xu to ask her to come in for another PCR test, something she believes shows they know she might have been infected with the virus during the detainment.