Preston man whose dad died of Covid is "devastated" after being quarantined in Germany after testing positive on flight home for funeral
A Preston man who now lives in Thailand has been left stranded in German quarantine after testing positive for Covid on his way home to Lancashire for his dad's funeral.
Andrew Neale has spent nearly two weeks in quarantine in Frankfurt where he learned he had tested positive for Covid whilst on a lay over from Bangkok to Manchester on March 2.
In a tragic twist, the 35-year-old had been flying home to attend the funeral of his dad - Preston bus driver Clive Neale - who died from Covid on February 27.
As per UK regulations, Andrew was required to take a quick PCR test at Frankfurt Airport at a cost of €275 (£236), before boarding his flight to the UK.
But he said he had none of the known symptoms and was confident that in a few hours he would be home with his grieving family in Preston.
But just moments before boarding, Andrew's phoned pinged with his test result. He was 'devastated' to learn that he had tested positive for Covid-19.
"I called my sister and we both burst into tears realising I'd miss my dad's funeral," he said.
"I learnt that I was positive by an automated email as I was about to board the plane to Manchester. Because I was already past the check-in desks, I could have easily boarded the Manchester plane like normal.
"But obviously, I couldn't allow myself to do that. Instead, I went to the police and told them the situation. They seemed to have no idea what to do with me, so I sat on a bench for more than six hours, just waiting.
"Eventually, they said I'd need to stay at a quarantine hotel for 15 days - costing 170 euros per night. I couldn't believe it.
"Then they said there would be a separate fee for food and I would need to pay another 275 euros for the second Covid test in two weeks. I was devastated."
He was detained by three police officers in full protective suits before being escorted out of the airport and placed in a taxi that took him to his 'quarantine hotel', where he has spent the past two weeks cooped up at a cost of £146 per night.
Stranded and alone in Frankfurt, Andrew said he was frantic at the thought of missing his dad's funeral and how he was going to pay for his two week stay in quarantine.
But his family assured him that last-minute arrangements had been made to postpone his dad's funeral, whilst his friends in Preston rallied together to raise money to cover some of the costs.
He will take another Covid test on Tuesday (March 16) and if he tests negative, he will finally be allowed to board a flight home to Manchester.
"That's the situation I'm in now. If tomorrow's result is negative, I’ll need to buy another ticket to England but at least I'll be on my way home.
"But if it comes back positive, I can’t leave Germany and I will have to start the 14-day quarantine all over again.
"My dad's funeral has already been postponed once. There's no way we'd get it postponed again."
Andrew said he also became concerned about his own health and the thought of becoming seriously ill with the virus whilst alone in Germany.
He said: "I don't have symptoms now and before I tested positive at the airport I just had a runny nose, which I didn't think anything of.
"But by the time I checked in, I wasn't able to breathe properly. I have asthma but I also struggle with anxiety, so I wasn't sure at the time how much was the Covid versus the circumstances.
"I was really worried and the hotel didn't have 24 hour staff or medical services available, which didn't help with my panic early on."
As the days went by, he suffered mild symptoms but these have now passed.
Andrew described the disoriented feeling of being quarantined in an unfamiliar country.
"Arriving at the hotel was devastating," he said. "My taxi driver, knowing I'd tested positive, didn't even wear a mask at first. And since landing in Germany, I've not once been offered or seen hand sanitiser.
"The driver threw me out at the hotel and said something in German, which I think meant "try any of those doors...", and drove off."
"This hotel is more like a block of flats. There's no reception, just steps off the street that lead straight to the flats. I walked in and wandered the corridors but there was nothing.
"I went back outside and realised I had no European sim card or internet on my phone. I sat on the cold tarmac, in the dark and just cried.
"I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I even thought about walking back to the airport. I was lost.
"Eventually a woman appeared and she brought me inside and left me in a room. I've not left that room for two weeks now.
"I wasn't prepared for this, so I had no European adaptor to charge my phone, no toothpaste or toiletries, as I only took hand luggage.
"Even my Barclays bank card had expired and I didn't have a new one because I now live in Thailand. So I had no access to money, it was just a nightmare."
But Andrew, who has lived in Thailand since 2018, said the support and generosity of his friends back home in Preston had spurred him on.
A Go Fund Me page was swiftly set up by his friends in the city's LGBT community which has raised more than £1,000 to help cover his costs.
"Fast forward two weeks and it’s no longer all doom and gloom," he said.
"When my friends heard, they asked if they could help out and launched the Go Fund Me page so that other people we know could help.
"Given my insurance only covers serious illness and my family had already forked out close to £1,000, I didn't really feel like I could decline their kind offer of help.
"I do feel embarrassed and naive for not being better prepared, but I'm incredibly grateful for everyone's support.
"The British Embassy and loved ones from Lancashire have all scrambled to get basic supplies to me, meaning I am in a much better position now.
"So many people, all around the world, have faced such devastatingly bad situations this past year. And whilst my current challenges, and the loss of my father, have been and will continue to be deeply upsetting, I'd be doing a disservice to his legacy if I allowed myself to wallow in misery.
"I'm safe, I'm alive and I'm incredibly fortunate to have such caring and thoughtful people in my life."
If you would like to help towards Andrew's quarantine costs, you can do so here.
Andrew's tribute to his dad - Preston bus driver Clive Neale - who died from Covid on February 27
"My dad was such a warm, friendly, outgoing gentleman," said Andrew.
"He was always cracking jokes or laughing about something, rarely taking things too seriously or worrying about things that were out of his control. He hated conflict and never argued or fell out with anyone.
"He had been a bus driver in Preston for virtually all of his adult life. From as early as I remember he was with Ribble / Zippy, Wigan North Western, Stagecoach and then for more than two decades with Preston Bus.
"I've come to realise that my love for Preston, for Preston Bus Station and for the people are because I've seen my father beaming with a smile through all his time on the buses.
"He was a father of six and he was absolutely loved and admired by all of us."