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Wed, 30 September 2020

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Seven Greek Islands Have Been Added to England's Coronavirus Quarantine List

Seven Greek Islands Have Been Added to England's Coronavirus Quarantine List

Labour have called for a review into how the government imposes its foreign quarantine rules

3 min read

Holidaymakers arriving in England from seven Greek islands will be forced to self-isolate under a new "regional" approach to travel corridors, Grant Shapps has announced.

The new system will give ministers the power to impose quarantine restrictions on certain islands within a country, with the measures set to impact travellers returning from seven Greek islands later this week.

Speaking to MPs on Monday, Mr Shapps said "enhanced data" allowed the government to pinpoint areas with an increased risk of infection, while leaving the rest of the country exempt.

Holidaymakers returning from Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos after 4am on Wednesday will be asked to self-isolate for 14-days under the new scheme.

The moves comes after Mr Shapps admitted the rules had become "confusing" after Scotland and Wales introduced restrictions on Portugal and parts of Greece last week, while England and Northern Ireland did not.

On Thursday, Welsh health secretary Vaughn Gething said the new rules for arrivals from mainland Portugal and six Greek islands followed "very clear advice" from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), which provides risk assessments for foreign countries.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also introduced similar restrictions on Portugal, having already added Greece to the Scottish quarantine list earlier in the week.

Mr Shapps had accused Scotland of "jumping the gun" by introducing the Greek quarantine measures, and suggested Mr Gethins had based his decision on incorrect information because he "was at a different meeting".

But the split had prompted calls from Labour for an urgent review into the policy, as well as the release of the full Joint Biosecurity Centre data which was provided to Mr Shapps.

Speaking to PoliticsHome ahead of the Commons statement, Mr McMahon said: "We’re still yet to see the scientific evidence for the Government’s decision making.

"People are rightly confused about the process, and how the UK Government came to a different decision from Scotland and Wales and give confidence they aren't simply making it up as they go along."

The Labour shadow minister also called on the government to examine options for a  "robust" testing programme in airports in an effort to reduce the two-week self-isolation period.

"After the mess we’ve seen it is vital that the government undertakes a review into quarantine policy, to report as soon as possible," he added.

"It should include outlining options for a robust testing regime in airports, and related follow up tests, that could help to safely minimise the need for 14-day quarantine."

The comments come after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped to introduce testing for those arriving in the UK "as soon as it is practical" following warnings from the UK's 20 largest airports that the blanket quarantine policy was causing "irreperable damage" to the industry.

Mr Hancock told LBC on Monday that ministers were looking at the possibility of introducing tests at the eight day mark, with those testing negative allowed to stop self-isolating.

He added: "We are working to try to find a way to allow for the quarantine to be reduced, but done in a way that also keeps people safe."

Responding to the comments, a government spokesperson said: "We are taking clear and decisive action to slow the spread of the virus and save lives.

"We keep the data for all countries and territories under constant review, and if the public health risk of people returning from a particular country without self-isolating becomes too high we will not hestitate to remove countries from the travel corridors exemptions list.

They added: "Work is ongoing with clinicians, the devolved administrations and the travel industry to consider if and how testing could be used in the future to reduce the self-isolation period.

"Any potential change to the testing for arrivals would need to be robust in minimising the chance that positive cases are missed."

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