France and the Netherlands added to UK’s coronavirus travel quarantine list
People wearing masks enjoy the view of Paris from the Montmartre in Paris, France, Aug. 10, 2020. (PA)
People arriving in the UK from France and the Netherlands will have to go into self-isolation under the latest changes to the Government’s coronavirus travel policy.
In a move expected to affect hundreds of thousands of Brits overseas, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced that six more destinations are being removed from the UK’s safe travel list and will be hit by quarantine measures.
The changes, taking effect from 4am on Saturday, also cover Monaco, Malta, Turks and Caicos Islands and Aruba.
The move comes after a 66% increase in newly reported Covid-19 cases in France over the past week, and a 52% spike in the weekly incidence rate per 100,000 people.
Meanwhile the Netherlands has seen what the FCO called a “consistent rise in newly reported cases” over the past four weeks, and a 52% rise in newly reported cases in the past week alone.
Even bigger spikes have been recorded in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Aruba and Malta.
Speaking during a visit to Northern Ireland on Thursday, Mr Johnson said Britain would need to be “absolutely ruthless” about imposing the measures.
“We can’t be remotely complacent about our own situation. Everybody understands that in a pandemic you don’t allow our population to be reinfected or the disease to come back in.
“That is why the quarantine measures are very important and we have to apply them in a very strict way.”
But France’s junior European affairs minister Clément Beaune suggested his country could retaliate with its own restrictions.
He tweeted in response to the announcement: “A British decision that we regret and which will lead to a measure of reciprocity, hoping that things will return to normal as soon as possible.”
Under the Government’s quarantine policy, which has been criticised by the travel industry, Brits will still be able to travel to those destinations, but will not be allowed to leave the place they are staying for the first 14 days they are back in the UK.
Those who are travelling to the UK for less than two weeks ill be expected to self-isolate for the duration of their stay.
Fines up to £3,200 can also be imposed on anyone who does not accurately declare contact details of the place they will be staying to UK authorities.
The FCO said: “The government has made consistently clear it will take decisive action if necessary to contain the virus, including removing countries from the travel corridors list rapidly if the public health risk of people returning from a particular country without self-isolating becomes too high.”
Responding to the announcement, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “While we support evidence based measures at the border, it’s vital that the Government has a joined-up strategy, and recognises the impact of this on travel-related businesses.
"It is vital that a sector-specific deal is put in place urgently.
“That the Government has still not put in place an effective track, trace and isolate system has made matters far worse and made it more likely that we are reliant on the blunt tool of 14-day quarantine.
"The Government should publish all of the scientific evidence its decisions are based on and details of any work being done to reduce the time needed to isolate through increased testing and other measures.”
Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael meanwhile said: "It's right that the Government is taking steps to minimise the risk of COVID-19 by updating the 'travel corridor' as the situation overseas evolves.
"However, the Foreign Office must acknowledge the significant disruption and disappointment this will cause. All impacted customers must have the chance to reschedule or be offered a full refund, and the Government must underwrite these commitments."
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe