Coronavirus: Thousands of people return to UK to beat France in quarantine


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Media captionTransport Secretary Grant Shapps Explains Decision Behind Quarantine Rules In France

Thousands of holidaymakers are rushing back to the UK, with quarantine restrictions on France coming into effect from Saturday.

The 14-day isolation requirement from 04:00 BST also applies to people arriving from the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks and Caicos Islands and Aruba.

Eurotunnel trains are reserved, while air travelers face high prices and additional ferry services have been added.

France has warned that it will take “reciprocal measures”.

Clément Beaune, French Secretary of State for European Affairs, tweeted that the UK’s decision was a matter of “regret” for the French.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the decision was triggered when the infection rate in affected countries exceeded 20 cases per 100,000 people over seven days. The quarantine requirement was previously applied to Spain, another popular destination for British holidaymakers, at the end of July.

“We’ve worked so hard in this country to reduce our level of infections, the last thing we want to do is get people to come back and bring the infection with them. It’s to protect everyone, ”Shapps told BBC Breakfast.

There are around 160,000 British holidaymakers currently in France, he said. The deadline is expected to cause a rush to ports and airports, with thousands of tourists desperate to avoid quarantine.

Others who cannot return on time face interruptions from work or schooling.

Katie, a teacher on vacation in the south of France, told the BBC that the 12-hour drive to the Channel crossing meant she had no chance of making it back in time, so she and her children will miss the start of the term.

“We have done everything the government has asked of us for months, but I really think they should treat us all with a little respect and give us time to organize ourselves so that we can continue our work and our children. with their life, ”she said.

Eurotunnel said its Channel Tunnel trains were full until Saturday. Previously, customers had to face long queues to access the website.

Mariana Fabricante, who is trying to get back from Tignes mountain resort with her family, said: “Every time I try to change tickets the website gets busy. People could make informed decisions if they had been informed in advance. . It’s boring and frustrating. ”

John Keefe, director of public affairs for Getlink, which operates the Channel Tunnel, warned people not to go to the terminal without a confirmed reservation. “There is no space available,” he said.

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Eurostar passengers arriving in St Pancras, after exceeding the quarantine deadline

Prices for some flights to the UK from Paris were over £ 450, up from £ 66 on Saturday. Many direct flights from the south of France are full.

The cheapest Eurostar tickets were £ 210, up from £ 165 on Saturday.

But DFDS Ferries said it had added four more departures from Calais to help the British get back on time. He said reservations must be made before arriving at the port.

Some vacationers have said they will agree to the quarantine restrictions on their return instead.

Jonathan Fieldsend from Woodbridge in Suffolk, who is not due to return from France with his family until August 18, said: “We have come fully accepting the risk that we are taking the quarantine. We are not going to come back in a hurry ”.

Airlines UK described the quarantine restrictions as “another devastating blow to the travel industry already reeling from the worst crisis in its history”.

UK Ambassador to France Lord Llewellyn admitted the new quarantine rule would be “bad news” for Britons in the country, but stressed that people could continue their holidays as long as they followed safety precautions and would isolate themselves upon their return. .

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said that while Labor supported “evidence-based measures” at the border, it was “vital” that No 10 had a “joint strategy” and “urgently” put in place a specific agreement to support the heavily affected travel sector.

The MP added: “The fact that the government still has not put in place an effective system of tracking, traceability and isolation has made matters worse and made it more likely that we are dependent on the blunt tool of quarantine. 14 days. ”

He called on Downing Street to publish the science behind its decisions, “and details of any work done to reduce the time needed to isolate through increased testing and other measures.”

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Media captionCoronavirus: How to Fly During a Global Pandemic

According to data firm Statista, Britons made 10.35 million visits to France last year, placing it second behind Spain – with 18.12 million – in popularity.

The Foreign Ministry is now warning against “all but essential travel” to France – the quarantine measure was imposed for Spain on July 25.

A list of over 50 so-called travel lanes – allowing movement between the UK and other countries with the need to self-isolate on return – was published early last month and subsequently expanded .

But the end of some of the exemptions on the list follows a “significant change” in the risk of contracting Covid-19, the Department of Transportation said.

He added that there had been a 66% increase in new cases reported per 100,000 people in France since last Friday.

For the Netherlands, it increased by 52%. And the increase for Malta was 105%, while it was 273% for the Turks and Caicos Islands and 1,106% for Aruba.

‘I can’t be complacent’

Ahead of a government meeting on the new measures, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to be “absolutely ruthless” in deciding the rules for overseas holidaymakers.

“We cannot be remotely happy with our own situation. Everyone understands that in the event of a pandemic, you do not allow our population to be re-infected or the disease to come back, ”he added.

France reported 2,524 new cases of coronavirus in 24 hours on Thursday, the largest daily increase since its lockdown was lifted in May.

The country’s Prime Minister, Jean Castex, said on Tuesday that the coronavirus figures had been going “in the wrong direction” for the past fortnight.

Meanwhile, the government has announced that the maximum fines for people in England who repeatedly refuse to cover their faces could double to £ 3,200, while organizers of illegal raves could face a penalty of £ 10,000 .

But from Sunday, the indoor theater, music and performance halls will be able to reopen with a socially distant audience.

Casinos, bowling alleys, ice rinks and soft gaming centers will also be allowed to resume, as will “close contact” beauty services such as facials, eyebrow trimming and eyelash treatments.

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