France-UK quarantine fears rise with Covid cases

Rate of cases of coronavirus in France are currently above UK limit for additional restrictions, travel expert warns

11 August 2020
By Jane Hanks

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has fuelled speculation that France could be added to the UK's quarantine list after he said he would “not hesitate” to bring in restrictions for more countries.

Travel expert Paul Charles, CEO and founder of tourism consultancy PC Agency is quoted by leading UK media as being in the know on UK government’s decisions on quarantine. He told Connexion that France, where coronavirus cases are rising sharply, is on a “cliff-edge” and close to falling into the quarantine category. 

He said if a decision is made, it should be expected on Thursday, as that is the day the government usually reviews its Covid-19 overseas policies and decides whether new quarantine regulations should be imposed or extended to more countries. However, he said the government could make an announcement earlier and at any time.

Government officials have told him, he said, that the key figures the UK are looking at are the numbers of cases per 100,000 in a country, recorded by an EU body, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Read more: If UK imposes France quarantine, will France do same back?

“Any figure over 20 per 100,000 for a period of seven days is a cause for alarm for the government and it is unlikely that this will come down in France in the next two days.”

The latest ECDC figures given for a 14 day period on August 10 is 26 per 100,000 for France.

Other countries with figures over 20, which are currently exempt from quarantine include Malta (58.6), Netherlands (32.5) and Poland (23).

Mr Charles suggested these three countries might also soon be added to the quarantine list.

Read more: France-UK quarantine: 'I'm very concerned for my holiday'

He also believes Switzerland could be added, though ECDC figures are not available, as it is not in the EU. Visitors from countries such as Sweden (32.5) and Romania (87.4) already must quarantine.

The current figure for the UK is 16.5 per 100,000.

The French public health authority’s latest figures for new Covid-19 cases were 785 yesterday, down from 2,288 on Friday, but Mr Charles said this was probably because fewer cases are recorded over the weekend and we would have to wait until later for a true picture of what is happening in France.

“Give the UK government their due,” he said. “They acted quickly over Spain when there were only a few areas affected by a resurgence of cases and now the country is up to 75.8 cases out of a 100,000.

"At present there are only a few areas in France where cases are high, but the UK is probably worried that France will follow the same pattern as Spain. France is on a cliff-edge as far as a UK decision is concerned.”

He is confident the government is listening to the travel industry’s concerns and will give 30 hours’ notice if quarantine is imposed. That would mean travellers would have until Saturday to get back to the UK if the announcement were made on Thursday.

If quarantine from France is required, it is likely it will be added to the list of countries where the Foreign and Commonwealth advise against all but essential travel. In these cases, the UK government warns that many travel insurance policies would be invalid, and advised travellers to check policy wording, if booking a trip.

Mr Charles said he thought quarantine to be ineffective and inoperable and the answer is to introduce systematic testing at airports and ferry ports. He also said a 14-day quarantine period is too long and uneconomic: “It is too much to ask for people to be out of action for that length of time when families need to get children back to school and parents to work.

“I think if there is quarantine it should be for five or eight days with testing. I think the government is listening and may reduce the required period in the near future.”

Read more: Quarantine for 'at risk' countries: Is anyone exempt?

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