The rush came after the government announced Thursday evening that all people arriving in the UK from France, where Covid-19 infection rates are high, should self-isolate for 14 days from of Saturday.
The rule change, which took effect at 4 a.m. BST on Saturday, also applies to those traveling to the UK from the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Aruba.
Transport operators noted a surge in demand as people booked last-minute tickets for a race to beat the Saturday morning deadline.
The Eurotunnel Le Shuttle train service, which carries vehicles between France and the UK, was fully booked on Friday due to increased demand, according to PA Media.
A spokesperson for the service told the news agency that 12,000 people attempted to purchase tickets within an hour of the government’s announcement on Thursday, against hundreds of requests it usually receives at during the same period.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government’s decision to end travel corridors with France and other destinations was based on the latest available data on coronaviruses.
“Data shows we need to remove France, the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks and Caicos and Aruba from our list of coronavirus travel corridors to reduce infection rates,” he said. tweeted Thursday.
France and the Netherlands had Covid-19 case rates of 34.0 and 41.6 per 100,000 people on Friday, while the UK rate was 17.3, according to the European Prevention Center and disease control.
Paris has vowed to retaliate after the UK decision, with French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune tweeting that his country is disappointed by the move.
France is the second most popular holiday destination for UK holidaymakers behind Spain, which was recently placed on the UK government’s quarantine list.
CNN’s Hanna Ziady contributed to this report.