Shapps said in a TV interview that people arriving in the UK from France should self-isolate for 14 days from Sunday, but the decision takes effect at 4 a.m. on Saturday.
Meanwhile, in a quickly deleted tweet referring to the imposition of the measures, Shapps said at 10:45 p.m. on Thursday: “It’s Saturday at 4 a.m., which means anyone who comes back on Sunday will have to be quarantined.”
The Guardian was told some vacationers mistakenly booked return trips later Saturday after seeing Shapps’ interview, meaning they would arrive after the measures went into effect.
During the TV interview, Shapps said: “Well the French government said unfortunately the virus was going in the wrong direction.
“There has been a 66% increase in the number of positive tests in the last week alone. And so, unfortunately, France has to be added to the quarantine list. This means that if you are returning from France, you must self-isolate for 14 days upon your return on Sunday. ”
The measures also apply to persons coming from, among others, the Netherlands, Malta, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Aruba and Monaco.
Broadcaster Andrew Neil, whose tweet to Shapps asking for the timing of the measures prompted the now deleted tweet, has been generally blunt in his criticism. Neil wrote on Twitter: “I’m afraid the Minister of Transport knows what he was talking about.”
In another tweet, Neil said, “Transport Minister Shapps just deleted his tweet for me. I suspect he thought 4 am Saturday morning was early Sunday morning. It’s not. It is 4 a.m. on Saturday. ”
A woman told The Guardian on Friday that her brother-in-law and family were staying with her in France and were due to leave on Monday but, after seeing Shapps’ TV interview, quickly paid £ 230 to book a Eurotunnel ticket for Saturday after- midday. Amanda Hill said: “They were of course shocked to wake up to find quarantine starts at 4 am tomorrow morning.
“They are of course extremely upset and angry and now have to quarantine themselves with six-year-old twins. Why didn’t he recognize his mistake and the impact it had? ”
A source from the Ministry of Transport said on Friday: “During his interview recorded just after the decision on France was taken, he made a slight slip that may have confused people about the schedules.
“The last thing he would like to do is confuse the French who are facing this difficult situation.
In an additional comment, a DfT source sought to point the finger at Sky News by claiming that Shapps realized the “possible confusion” caused by his comments and requested that this part of the clip not be shown.
The source said: “The comment on when the quarantine goes into effect was made in a pre-recorded interview with a team of Sky cameras. The Secretary of State acknowledged the possible confusion and requested that the sync comment not be used in the aired clip. But that comment temporarily appeared on the air. ”
Sky News has been contacted for comment.