This is what we know.
The UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said in an interview with Sky News that the UK “will not hesitate” to add more countries to its travel quarantine list in order to protect public health. When asked whether tourist destinations such as France could be added he replied it was a “tricky situation” and that holidaymakers needed to bear in mind the risk of potential disruption to their travel plans.
Connexion spoke to Paul Charles, the CEO of travel consultancy PC Agency, who said that he is in daily contact with UK government officials and they have told him that if the number of coronavirus cases continue to grow in France, the UK will impose quarantine on returning travellers.
Mr Charles said he thought there was a substantial risk of numbers going up and that quarantine could be imposed, “not today, or tomorrow, but perhaps at the end of next week, either Thursday or Friday. The UK government is sending clear messages that if numbers are not reduced in France, action will be taken, and the country has five days in which to improve the figures.” The UK government gives its weekly COVID-19 epidemiology surveillance report from Public Health England on Fridays.
France has reported an increase of over 1,600 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of cases in the country up to 195,633. In the past 14 days the UK reported an incidence of 14.3 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people, figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show. In the same period, France reported 23.4 per 100,000 people.
How much warning would travellers be given?
In the case of Spain, quarantine measures were imposed almost immediately, with the announcement made on a Saturday evening and the measures coming into effect from midnight the same night.
Yesterday Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas were added to the countries requiring quarantine on re-entry to the UK, but travellers were given 48 hours' notice. The announcement was made yesterday, Thursday August 6, and travellers will not have to go into quarantine until a return on Saturday August 8.
Mr Charles says he thinks the government has learnt from criticism over its handling of the Spain announcement and he hopes that for France there would be at least 36 hours notice as he calculates there are 500 - 600,000 UK visitors in France today.
What is likely to make the UK government decide to impose quarantine?
Rising figures with no downturn, but Mr Charles says he has been told the government body making decisions on this issue also looks at other criteria, although these have not been made public. He believes they also take into account the extent to which people in big cities, such as Nice, are following social distancing guidelines and take into account the fact that an increase in testing means an increase in positive results.
Who would it affect?
The measures will be expected to apply to anyone who is in France or goes to France, even if they are transiting through the country, regardless of their nationality. If the measures are imposed, anyone in France at that point who wants to travel to the UK will be expected to self-isolate on arrival.
The measures are also expected to apply regardless of the means of travel into the UK.
There may be exceptions to the quarantine obligation for, for example, health workers tackling coronavirus or diplomats.
For how long would the requirement be imposed?
No length of time has been given for other countries and at present the quarantine restrictions for arrivals to the UK from Spain is continuing with no talk of any change in policy. However, situations in different countries are constantly under review.
What would quarantine mean?
The government information for travellers on how to self-isolate when you arrive in the UK says you can self-isolate in your own home, with friends or family, or in a hotel or other temporary accommodation. You can only have a visitor if they are providing emergency, care or medical assistance or veterinary assistance.
You cannot go out to work or school or visit public areas. You should not go shopping. You can only exercise within your home or garden.
In England, you can only leave your accommodation if you need urgent medical assistance; you need access to basic necessities if you cannot arrange for them to be delivered; you need to go to the funeral of a family member or someone you live with; you need to visit a family member or someone you live with who is dying or critically ill; there is a legal obligation or there is an emergency. Different rules may apply in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
This means it will be difficult for anyone who plans to return to work after their holiday to risk a holiday in a country where quarantine risks may be imposed. Some destinations are already reporting cancellations to France due to the rising coronavirus numbers.
How would quarantine be monitored?
If you are required to self-isolate, but do not, you can be fined £1,000 if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, and £480 if you live in Scotland. New arrivals can be contacted at any time during their quarantine to check they are at home.
Mr Charles says it is impossible for the authorities to check on everyone coming into the country and says quarantine is “unworkable and unenforceable and too damaging to the economy.” He has been campaigning for some time for the government to instead introduce systematic testing at airports and ferry terminals for all travellers entering the UK as he says this would be much more effective in controlling the spread of the virus, and would not lead to such devastating effects on the tourist industry. He told Connexion that if the UK imposes quarantine on travellers from France, it will have a catastrophic effect on the French tourist industry.
What advice is the British Embassy in Paris giving?
The British Embassy says that all information concerning quarantine rules has to come from the Department of Transport rather than the Embassy and it is unlikely they will issue a statement speculating about France at present.
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