Boris Johnson yesterday declared Britain will be “absolutely ruthless” in deciding whether travellers must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in the UK. The Prime Minister said the Government is prepared to axe “our closest and dearest friends and partners” from the quarantine exemption list just hours before deciding that France, the Netherlands and Monaco would all be removed from it.
The Daily Express understands that quarantine rules will come into force from Saturday at 4am affecting the estimated 120,000 Britons currently travelling in France.
Whitehall sources said the data showed France has “gone too far” as cases spread rapidly across the country this week.
They said the infection rate is “rising rapidly”, prompting ministers to take the bold decision to order people returning from France to self-isolate for 14 days.
France reported more than 2,500 new COVID-19 infections for the second day in a row on Thursday, levels last seen in mid-April when the country was in the middle of one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.
Experts say this is because more young people are being infected, who are less likely to need hospital care.
Ministers were yesterday discussing removing as many as 14 countries from the Government’s “green list”.
Mr Johnson said during a visit to Northern Ireland yesterday: “We’ve got to be absolutely ruthless about this, even with our closest and dearest friends and partners around the world.
“We will be looking at the data a bit later on this afternoon … looking at exactly where France and other countries are getting to, and you know we can’t be remotely complacent about our own situation.”
Officials are said to be particularly concerned about Malta, a popular holiday destination for 500,000 Britons every year, after a spike in cases on the small island.
Sources initially told the Daily Express that France may get a reprieve this week – despite being on the cliff edge because cases are rising.
But after 2,524 new cases were reported by French health officials on Wednesday, a significant jump from the 1,397 seen on Tuesday, the UK government began reexamining their plans.
And the 2,500 new cases on Thursday appeared to be the final straw for ministers and they the took the “ruthless” decision.
Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy the PC Agency says: “The in or out system of quarantine has to change. It creates confusion and fear, and puts off economic recovery.
“It also suggests Britain is closed to the outside world in the run-up to Brexit. The government needs to invest in regular world-class testing as other countries have done.”
Jersey will also quarantine French tourists arriving on the island for at least five days.
The Jersey Tourism Office said: “The French will have to self-isolate at their hotel for at least five days, and even probably seven, as they will have to wait for the results of the second test.
“Tests conducted abroad are not considered to be valid for countries classified as orange.”
Jet2Holidays and Jet2.com are planning to re-start their flights to Mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands.
The company will begin flying Brits to Spain again on August 24 and the Balearic Island on August 23.
It is also resuming flights to Cyprus on August 17 and the Canary Islands on August 23.
Wizz Air is launching a new base in Doncaster Sheffield Airport and seven additional destinations, including Spain and Portugal, as demand has proved ‘extremely strong’ despite the pandemic.
Owain Jones, managing director of Wizz Air UK, said: “One of the challenges has been the completely unjoined up approach we’re seeing to policy across Europe.”
Mr Jones added that the airline has switched its attention to Greece after Spain was dropped from Britain’s ‘green list’ of countries.
Its first direct service to Santorini took off this week and the flight was close to full. Bookings to Greece have been “extremely strong,” Jones said.
Mr Jones added: “The creation of our second base in the UK is a major milestone for Wizz Air UK, and a testament to both our long term commitment to serving the UK market and the strength of the Wizz Air business model, as we continue to expand our footprint during this challenging time for the industry.”
Germany recorded 1,319 new cases in the last 24 hours, the most since May 1 and in excess of 1,000 for the third straight day. Officials said the rise was due, in part, to people returning from holidays, and Germany recently warned against non-essential trips to parts of Spain.
All travellers arriving in Italy from Spain, Malta, Croatia and Greece will now have to undertake mandatory coronavirus testing.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said: “We must continue to be cautious in order to protect the results obtained thanks to sacrifices made by all in recent months.”
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