Government refuses ‘running commentaries’ on next countries for quarantine

As demands increase for more sophisticated travel exclusions, the government has said it will not give “running commentaries” on countries that may be added to the Foreign Office no-go list, and from which arrivals must quarantine.

Garry Wilson, chief executive of easyJet Holidays, is the latest travel industry boss to demand more nuanced quarantine rules and government warnings.

He said: “We need targeted quarantine requirements for regions where spikes have occurred rather than applied at a national level.

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“In the case of Spain, its islands are hundreds of miles from the mainland and have very low infection rates with the Canaries, for example, as low as two per 100,000 in the past seven days which is significantly lower than the UK.”

Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, told BBC Breakfast: “I do genuinely understand people’s frustration and anxiety about it.

“Believe me, from friends and family and people I meet in the street, everyone is asking this question. I completely understand it.

“Inevitably, what we have to do is analyse the situation in countries around the world.

“Where we feel there is too high a degree of risk, where the incidence of the disease is rising and we risk that import, we have to take measures including advising against travel and imposing quarantine.”

He said all options were “under review” in order to “minimise disruption for travellers”.

But Mr Dowden said: “I don’t think it’s helpful to give running commentaries.

“We’re taking expert advice. If it is the case that in order to protect people in this country and to ensure that we keep our economy open, we will have to consider those measures and take them as is necessary.”

Later, on Sky News, the culture secretary said: “We are at a very risky moment with this pandemic. It may be the case we have to impose quarantine measures to stop the virus spreading.

“So long as you’re aware of that risk and comfortable with that risk, go ahead and take your break.”

The World Travel & Tourism Council has added to the calls for regional targeting of risk areas rather than the UK’s blanket approach.

Gloria Guevara, the president and chief executive, said: “Removing the whole of Spain from the UK travel corridors exception list risks causing irreparable damage to the travel and tourism sector.

“It also makes no sense; while Spain as a whole, and Catalonia in particular, has a higher rate of coronavirus cases than then UK, the rate in Andalucía, the Balearics and Canaries is actually lower than the UK.”

Ms Guevara called for screening on arrival, saying: “We are going to have to live with Covid-19 for the foreseeable future.”

But earlier Mr Dowden had rejected proposals for testing at Heathrow airport, saying: “We’re not at the point where there’s a viable alternative to 14-day quarantine.”

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